What to know, how we're helping, and ways you can be involved.
What is the extent of the damage?
This is the breakdown in numbers:
- Over 3 million acres have burned
- There are 36 confirmed deaths due to the fires
- More than 17,000 firefighters are battling the blaze
- In California alone, 25 major wildfires were recorded, with 5 of the largest still burning
Also, it's important to note the severity of the damage in Washington and Oregon. This is proving a record year for the entire American West Coast, not just California.
Why are the wildfires so much worse than usual this year?
Kendra Pierre-Louis & John Schwartz of the New York Times clearly outline the major reasons why the wildfires are abnormally bad this year.
1. Climate Change
The reason why California burns every year is because of the state's climate. But, climate change has drastically exacerbated the usual factors. This year, Death Valley recorded temperates in the 130's, which is now the hottest recorded temperature on Earth. Ever. That heat wave is a significant reason why these fires are so much worse. Never has the state had temperatures that high before. And neither has anywhere else in the world.
Coupled with the unusually hot heat wave are California's winds. All fires need to start are heat, wind, and a spark. Since the heat factor was so much hotter this year, the fires became what they are today, spreading uncontrollably fast.
Wildfires are a form of nature's cleansing. When forests burn, nutrients return back to the soil and rebirth the land anew. So, many fires start naturally; the spark is something that comes from nature such as lightening. This year, and in many recent years, the spark factor is caused by people. Things like fireworks, power lines, and even flat tires that spark on the pavement, have been the culprits of some of the largest fires in history, including the 2020 fires. This year, the source is largely attributed to fireworks at a gender reveal party.
To the first point, people are also responsible for Earth's rising temperatures. The increase of manmade processes has resulted in astronomically high levels of greenhouse gases in our environment. These gases get trapped in our atmosphere because of the Earth's ozone layer, and cause what we refer to as global warming or global climate change.
3. Fire Suppression
This appears counterintuitive, but the suppression of fires has left a lot of land that would've burned, essentially waiting to be burned. According to Dr. Park Williams, a bioclimatologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, "Every time we fought a fire successfully, that means that a bunch of stuff that would have burned didn’t burn. And so over the last hundred years we’ve had an accumulation of plants in a lot of areas. And so in a lot of California now when fires start, those fires are burning through places that have a lot more plants to burn than they would have if we had been allowing fires to burn for the last hundred years."
How can you help?
We are partnering with Entercom to provide clothing to victims of the fires. Clothing we have in our warehouse, as well as core clothing items that we have plenty of inventory of, we are donating to those in need. We are also working to put together care packages to provide additional help. These would include personal care items such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. to help out people staying in evacuation centers.
You can also be involved in helping the victims of the fires in the form of donations, whether they are monetary or in the form of clothing/necessities. Here is a link to a list of organizations where you can find ways to provide aid. If you have any more that you know of, please leave a comment below!