Beginning Oct. 8, a series of wildfires spread across Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte and Solano counties in Northern California.
What caused the fires?
- No evidence has been found to indicate how the fires themselves started, but 95 percent of fires in the state of California are started by people
- Lightning and faulty transformers could be another possible cause
- Hot, dry conditions with high winds and lack of water allow these fires to quickly spread
- The 50-75 mph winds experienced in this region not only provide a steady supply of oxygen to growing fires but also fell trees and limbs that have had an impact on power lines.
- The drought much of California has experienced the last few years makes plants and trees brittle, easily ignited and broken, providing fires with plenty of material to burn through
- Because the fires started near midnight, the firefighter response was slower than usual, allowing the fires time to truly grow/spread.
- Some wildfires are natural beneficial, burning away the dead debris that clogs up forest floors
- Rampant suppression of these fires, however, has lead to over clogged forests and a greater probability of uncontrollable wildfires like these
- Climate change also contributes. For every degree the climate warms, forests need 15 percent more precipitation to remain sufficiently hydrated
What are effects?
- The death toll from the fires is currently 42 people, with 40,000 evacuated from their homes
- The smoke from fires can cause irreparable damage to the heart and respiratory system because of chemical components including carbon monoxide
- 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed and 170,000 acres of land have been scorched, including the vineyards sprawling across California’s wine country
- According to Time, the fires will have little impact on California’s wine industry as a whole however, as the wine country only makes up 10 percent of all California wine
- Environmentally, the fires will have varying effects in each region and on each animal species in that region, making it difficult to predict how ecosystems will be affected
- A trail of smoke over 500 miles long can be seen from space as it billows off of the state
An interactive map of California’s fires can be found here.