U.S. Wildfires: What You Need To Know

U.S. Wildfires: What You Need To Know

Paige James, Staff Writer

Wildfires are uncontrolled fires that burn in the wilderness, often spreading quickly through the rural areas, and are classified as national disasters by the Environmental Protection Agency. In the U.S., wildfires often occur in Western states. There has been an average increase of about 100 major fires every year from the previous year, which scientists have attributed to climate change.

In 2020, significant wildfires have occurred across the western United States. 

California is currently experiencing its largest wildfire season in the state’s history. On Aug. 18, the Governor of California declared a state of emergency. More than 140,000 people in California were under evacuation orders on Aug. 21, and more than 119,000 people had already evacuated their homes. On Aug. 22, President Donald Trump issued a major disaster declaration

Martha Maciel, Deputy State Director of the California Bureau of Land Management, stated “This year’s fire season has been a record-breaking year, in not only the total amount of acres burned, but 6 of the top 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred in 2020. The safety of the public and all wildland fire responders is always the number one priority of the Bureau of Land Management and it’s partner wildland fire agencies.”

As of Sept. 15 in California, there have been 7,718 wildfire incidents with twenty fatalities and 5,412 structures damaged, with an estimated 3,154,107 acres of land burned. For reference, in 2019, there were only 7,860 incidents with three fatalities and 732 structures damaged, with an estimated 259,823 acres of land burned. The air quality of some places in California has severely declined from the smoke caused by the wildfires, becoming dangerous for residents to breathe over extensive periods. 

Colorado has experienced its largest wildfire in the state’s history, with only 95 percent containment of the wildfire as of Sept. 11 and an estimated containment date of Sept. 15. The Pine Gulch wildfire started on July 31, 2020, and is roughly 139,000 acres in size. Scientists worry about the impacts of the Pine Gulch wildfire and recovery from the wildfire. The high-severity wildfire changes the land’s landscape to be unsuitable to growing back trees and recreating the destroyed forests.

Several organizations are accepting donations for relief funds to support and help the response to the California wildfires. You can donate to support the relief efforts to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s California Wildfires Recovery Fund, the California Fire Foundation, the American Red Cross Wildfire Relief, and the California Community Foundation’s Wildlife Relief Fund.