Wildfire season rages

Two firefighters work hard to stop California wildfires.

Creative Commons

Two firefighters work hard to stop California wildfires.

With recent fires such as the ones in Corona (depicted above) and Irvine happening around the same time every year, Southern Californians might wonder why. The truth is that California has a period of time known as the Wildfire Season during which different parts of the state are expected to be engulfed in fires. But it begs the question–why do these wildfires happen around the same time each year?

To begin, it’s important to define what qualifies as a wildfire. The definition from the National Wildfire Coordination Group states that it is “an unplanned, unwanted wildland fire.” Wildfires include, “unauthorized human-caused fires, escaped wildland fire use events, escaped prescribed fire projects, and all other wildland fires where the objective is to put the fire out.”

Fire expert Maryanne Shults states that while there is no general answer for when wildfire season starts, “generally, the wildfire season here in Southern California begins in late September and extends through that corner (end of December).” This year, it began to gain traction after the Greenland fires of August 3.  

The season has yet to end, but it still has hit unprecedented levels of magnitude. This year alone has been the most expensive for the US Forest Service in terms of firefighting, and Los Angeles had their largest fire in history.  Most recently were the fires of “Canyon Fire 2,” that were made apparent when a huge amount of smoke filled the sky, all the way up to our campus.

On the subject of how this wildfire season compares to past ones from a personal experience, our very own Mr. Camacho commented that, “it was more scary looking, the heat, and you saw the cloud of smoke.” Mr. Camacho’s house was located a quarter of a mile away from the evacuation zone, so he had a good view of the fires.

“[The] weather is more susceptible to fire,” Camacho answered as to why this season seems to be more intense. He takes the side of the scientists who point at climate change. “Everyone should take note at how our environment is changing due to our carbon footprint.”

Climate change seems like a reasonable cause to examine.  Ms. Shults explains that, “our fire season in California has been so intense due to the five year drought, and the extreme we experience in October when it’s the season of the Santa Ana Winds.”  The winds in question are powerful and warm, causing fires to spread at an increasing rate. As the temperatures continue to rise, so does the possibility for more fires that last a longer time than ever before. So if we don’t watch out, we could contribute to more fires.