California residents are experiencing the effects of wildfires caused by a lingering drought.
California’s 2021 water year was the third driest in a century, resulting in a long fire season for residents. This included SoCal residents, especially those closest to the mountains, who experienced heavy restrictions throughout September due to the Fire Danger Level hitting “extreme.”
This comes as just another aspect of life for Californians that has been affected by the recent wildfires. In 2020, California had 4.2 million acres burned, the most in Cal Fire data history. In fact, it is double the next highest number of acres burned in previous years, which was in 2018.
One of the most notable fires currently taking place is the KNP Complex fire in Northern California. Ten thousand trees must be removed due to damage, including many sequoias. This fire has been burning since September and now is getting close to the General Grant Tree, the second-largest tree in the world.
Closer to L.A. County is the fire in Santa Barbara which began Oct. 11 and forced local residents to evacuate their homes. Last week residents were allowed to return home, and the fire is now 80% contained.
Even when the fires are farther away, SoCal residents still see and feel the effects of the fires.
“When the worst of the pandemic was over, then came the fires,” said L.A. County resident Greg Bolinger. Bolinger works for a youth sports organization that was all set to open back up, but instead of Covid-19 stopping them, bad air quality from a local fire did.
La County residents were again surrounded by orange skies and poor air quality in late September due to fires in Central and Northern California.
In 2021, so far the fires have burned 1.4 million acres. On July 14, the United States Department of Agriculture sent out a News Release in regard to the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. The release stated that fire officials were raising the Fire Danger Level from “Very High” to “Extreme.”
These restrictions for residents continue to this day, and they deny any building, maintaining, attending or using a fire, campfire or stove fire. Also, tools such as welding, or operation of an acetylene or other torch with open flame, chainsaw, etc. cannot be used.
“Much of our day-to-day maintenance, preventative maintenance and preparation for the winter months have been compromised,” said Bill Lee, the resident manager of an organized camp in the Los Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
The State government has been working to put out the fires, but some say they are not doing enough prevention.
“Just at our camp alone we have piles of wood, logs and debris that was cut, gathered and pilled there over a decade ago by the forest service for the purpose of controlled burns. Those controlled burns have yet to happen and more debris continues to gather creating ladder fuel,” said Lee.
Ladder fuel is when there is enough fuel to raise the flames off the ground into the treetops, meaning it is a hazard of forest fires.
“In the over four years that I have been resident manager, the only effort to improve the fire safety of our forest, that I have seen, has been to restrict the use of the forest to the public,” Lee added.
Some Californians hoped that the storm Monday, which was an unusual size for an October storm in California, was a sign that the drought and year-round fire season was over.
California’s drought manager Jeanine Jones says that while it was helpful for decreasing the risk of wildfire, it was only one storm, and California needs much more than one storm to refill reservoirs and irrigate crops.
California will have to wait and see if this storm is a sign of more to come or simply an outlier.