How are the California Wildfires Negatively Affecting Us?

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Wildfires in California aren’t unheard of, in fact California is notorious for them. With wildfires raging, it comes with many negative effects. Wildfires claim homes and precious lives, it affects the world economically, environmentally and our own health.

In mid-July to August 2018, a series of large wildfires lit up across California, including fires called the Carr Fire and the Mendocino Complex Fire. According to The National Geographic, “on August 4, 2018, a national disaster was declared in Northern California, due to the extensive wildfires burning there. In November 2018, strong winds caused another round of large, destructive fires to erupt across the state. This new batch of wildfires includes the Woolsey Fire and the Camp Fire, which killed at least 85 people.”

It destroyed more than 18,000 buildings, making it both California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire ever. Firefighters are steadily fighting back several wildfires in California, as heavy smoke takes over the state creating unhealthy air quality and destroying land. The 2018 wildfires have taken at least 77 lives and destroyed 10,300 houses just in Chico, California alone. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, “there was a total of 8,434 fires that burned 1,890,430 acres of land.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, known for their quick responses to natural disasters, are surely helping California residents recollect and recover from the wildfires. “Since President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the state of California, FEMA has approved more than $12.7 million in federal assistance for survivors affected by the wildfires in 3 counties, Butte, Los Angeles and Ventura” according to Elizabeth Litzow, a spokeswoman for FEMA. The funding includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

FEMA has joined with California to set up a recovery center, an easy to access shop where residents affected by the fires can file insurance claims, get grants for food and shelter, and register for other types of aid. Elizabeth Litzow also stated that “550 FEMA staff members are on the ground helping local officials and 16,000 applicants have volunteered to help”.

To start off, as the wildfires were spreading across California, communities are being exposed to the harmful smoke in the air. According to a senior scientist at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in New Mexico, says for people with non susceptible lungs and susceptible lungs, even very low levels of exposure of the smoke can result in an emergency room visit, and have long lasting effects. Strong winds can carry those harmful pollutants for hundreds of miles and the residue can cause breathing difficulties even in healthy individuals.

More than 20 cities were listed as having toxic air and residents have been advised to stay inside as much as possible and avoid being outdoors as much as they can. Research into the long term effects of the wildfires is still new and not much is certain. But some breakthroughs in science do show how inhalation of the particles from the fires can make their way into the lung tissue and cause damage to the immune system. A California resident, Debbie Dobrosky, claimed that the smoke was so heavy that “even the inside of her apartment she’s had to use her inhaler twice a morning, which wasn’t a normal thing.”

Another California resident, Lisa Suennen, has gone to the doctor three times in the recent weeks because of respiratory issues and as the air got worse, she developed bronchitis and her asthma flared up. Some of California’s most popular cities are considered the most polluted because of the fires, cities like San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento. According to PurpleAir, which has a network of sensors around the world also showed that California has worse air than India and China which are known for having the worst pollution.

Some controversy sparked because of schools staying open while smoke was lingering in the air, for example, UC Berkeley. A freshman stated that “she had a bloody nose, a bloody throat, a cough, dry and watering eyes, and a sore and dry throat” and it was still mandatory for her to go to class, though it was not healthy to be outside. Not only do the fumes affect California, they affect states from across the country as well. In an article from Detroit Free Press, they stated that “smoke from the massive wildfires that have scorched California in recent weeks have drafted over several states — including Michigan.”

Some residents in upper Michigan were able to smell the smoke and the sky even darkened. Though the smoke isn’t expected to cause health problems, it just puts into perspective how big the fires actually were. There was even smoke spotted in Chicago and New York, but how do we actually know if the dark haze over the sky are actually from the wildfires? According to CNN, when smoke gets caught up in the higher atmosphere it’s possible for it to travel across the country and even farther. Residents were even advised to wear a special kind of mask that protects them from the particles in the air.

The wildfires are affecting the economy at an alarming rate. According to The Balance, the US Forest Preserve spent almost 2.5 billion on the wildfires in 2017, while in 2016 it was only 1.4 billion spent. In 2015, 14.3 billion was spent in real estate damage alone. The Balance states how the 2018 fires are 25% worse than during the same time period in 2017 and as of August 20, 2018, wildfires had burned 4.5 billion acres of land. Big wildfires have long term socioeconomic effects but the input of money from recovery effects and fire repression could possibly provide some economic opportunities.

The fires disrupt the lives of employers and families and leads to long term instability in markets, especially local labor ones. They’ve impacted the state so much that they spent over 70 billion dollars on health related issues with the smoke inhalation, property loss and damage, lost tourism revenue, impact of agriculture and real estate and non functioning businesses. Basically, the wildfires stop revenue for everything because the conditions are so inhumane. According to InsideClimateNews, “Wildfires emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that will continue to warm the planet well into the future.

They damage forests that would otherwise remove CO2 from the air. And they inject soot and other aerosols into the atmosphere, with complex effects on warming and cooling.” The leading cause of global warming is known to be fossil fuels burning, which is what the wildfires are doing. Everyday that we deny or ignore the fact that climate change isn’t real and caused by burning coal, oil and gas, and continue to do nothing about it, it exposes our present and future generations to the horrors of a climate change. Scientific evidence clearly shows that climate change is worsening California’s wildfires in many ways, such as higher temperatures drying out vegetation and soil, creating more and ruining the water supply.

Climate change is also shortening the California rainy season therefore extending the fire season and the warming atmosphere is slowing the jet stream, leading to more California heat waves and high-pressure ridges in the Pacific and ridges deflect from the state some storms that would otherwise bring much-needed moisture to slow the spread of fires, according to Yale Climate Connections. Climate change drives up temperatures, causing the snow mountains to melt, and making forests deprived of that moisture more vulnerable to burning.

Natural disaster events complicate that process because they are more difficult to predict the number of homes that will be damaged by fires caused by defective wiring or unattended stoves, but also because disasters cause a large number of insured losses to all occur simultaneously, rather than being spread out over many months or years. The insurance industry seem to be the most affected group of businesses after a wildfire, according to BusinessInsurance.com, “the insurance companies with the most exposure to the current situation in California – based on net written premium in the affected areas are State Farm with 11.7%, Farmers with 11.5% and Liberty Mutual with 6.2%.

It is estimated the California wildfires will indeed affect the economy of California. The cost to contain and fight the fire and deal with the aftermath will, no doubt, be expected in the billions. Not to mention the loss in tax revenue from businesses no longer around, including the workers who have lost their jobs and can no longer pay taxes as well as other impacts will be costly. This will create a hole in the California budget, which may have an increase in taxes. If California has to borrow more this might negatively impact its bond ratings and it will have to pay higher interest rates, which can cost upwards of 10s of billions of dollars. At this time, it is estimated the economic impact of the fires is already approaching $70 billion dollars. Based on the forecast the total costs from this disaster on the economy would exceed $85 billion and, if the fires had not been contained, the total economic impact could even reach $100 billion.”

The wildfires are devastating, is it even possible for there to be a benefit to this? Some could argue that there is. According to the National Geographic, “many animals have some ability to escape the heat. Birds may fly away, mammals can run, and amphibians and other small creatures burrow into the ground, hide out in logs, or take cover under rocks. And other animals, including large ones like elk, will take refuge in streams and lakes.”

Supposedly, fire is a natural part of these landscapes for the animals. Fires can benefit predators who prey on these fleeing animals. Bears, raccoons, and raptors, have been seen hunting creatures trying to escape the flames because they thrive in these conditions. Scientists don’t have any good estimates on the number of animals that die in wildfires each year. But there are no documented cases of fires, even severe ones, taking out entire populations of species. Sadly, some animals do die in the smoke and fire those that can’t run fast enough or find shelter. Young and small animals are the ones at risk. And some of their strategies for escape might not work, for example, a koala’s natural instinct is to crawl up in a tree and most likely leaving it trapped.

Heat can cause harm too, even organisms buried deep in the ground, like fungi. Jane Smith, a mycologist with the U.S. Forest Service, has measured temperatures as high as 1,292 degrees Fahrenheit beneath logs burning in a wildfire, and 212 degrees Fahrenheit a full two inches below the surface. Many species actually require fire as a part of their life history, certain plants will seed only after a blaze. Without fire, those organisms can’t reproduce and anything that depends on them will be affected as well. All in all, fire is a bad thing when it happens in your backyard. But to an extent, it can be a healthy event for a forest and for at least some of the animals that live there.

In summary, the California wildfires overall have had nothing but negative affects to our world and our ourselves. It has ruined the air quality and gave us illnesses because of it, damaged us economically and sparked more concern with climate change. So now what? We can’t do much because we can’t control the fires, but what we can do is educate others about the repercussions of the wildfires rather than just describing it as just “any other wildfire”.


Cite this paper

How are the California Wildfires Negatively Affecting Us?. (2021, Apr 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/how-are-the-california-wildfires-negatively-affecting-us/

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