Blazing Wildfires in California

Jaidan Leonard, Columnist

Wildfires can be huge natural occurrences, but sometimes they are man-made. They can easily spread between houses and trees; if they are particularly big, it can be hard for first responders to contain and get rid of them safely. They are especially common in the hot summers, because of the blazing heat, but the most recent wildfire in California, the Thomas fire, has proved that the season doesn’t always matter.

When wildfires naturally happen, usually grass or dry leaves are ignited by something. For example, if there is a lightning strike that hits dry brush or a tree, then it could possibly spread after catching on fire. Another reason wildfires can start is man-made error, like if someone goes on a camping trip, sets up a fire, and forgets to put it out. The flames could catch on some grass, set on fire, and spread.

Wildfires are different from structural fires. Wildfires have strong winds that can change the direction of the fire in a second and are out in the open. They destroy hundreds of thousands of acres and homes. In comparison, structural fires tend to build up more smoke because they are enclosed in one area, such as a burning building. They are most often caused by human error or carelessness, but can also be electrical. The roof could collapse or the fire could get stronger, which is extremely risky for firefighters. Altogether, they both hold about the same level of danger.

Parts of Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland, Montecito, and surrounding areas have been threatened or destroyed by the Thomas fire. The wildfire started on Dec. 4, and is currently being battled by 4,000 firefighters and at least 400 other people that are up against 45-60 mph winds. It scorched over 173,000 acres by early Sunday on Dec. 10 but as of Dec. 14, 238,000 acres have been burned through and only 35 percent of it was contained, as CNN explains. Thomas is known as the biggest wildfire ever in California.

Don’t forget to appreciate the firefighters who risked their lives for countless weeks at a time to keep us safe. “They work, have a quick meal, work more, rest a little, and then work even more and continue until the job is done,” states John Leonard, a firefighter of Gilbert, Arizona. Despite the firefighters’ hard work, the size of the fire has made their effort have only a little effect. The California fire has barely been contained, even as firefighters are still working toward containing more and more each day. CNN says, “The White House has approved California’s request for direct federal assistance. President Donald Trump ordered FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts in affected counties.”

All in all, wildfires can be dangerous and are very quick to spread. They destroy everything that gets near it including buildings, homes, forests, cars, animals, habitats, and people. Just remember to put out your campfire and use caution around electricity if you don’t know what you are doing. You can also be on the watch for things that could start a fire inside your own home, such as unattended ovens, candles, or malfunctioning outlets.  Fires can be scary and dangerous, but just remember to be safe, calm, and call 911 in case of an emergency.