California Wildfires in August 2020

Ben Lomond, California on Sunday. Photo by Peter Dasilva/EPA

Historic wildfires are taking hold of Californians across the state, causing the implementation of mass evacuation orders.

How did the wildfires start?

As of noon today (August 24th), there are over 7000 wildfires across California in 2020 alone. Currently, there are nearly 700 active fires. Some of the largest fires have been started by lightning storms.

What is the impact of the wildfires?

Over 1.4 million acres of land have burned. Over 10 thousand firefighters have been mobilized to battle the fires, with some coming from as far as Kansas. 7 deaths have been reported across California. Experts have said that not only have fires increased in severity and multitude, but they are also burning in places that do not typically see wildfires. While grassland and chaparral are breeding grounds for wildfires, redwoods and coniferous trees are not usually sites of mass-burning as has been recently seen.

Redwoods can withstand normally wildfires because they have thick bark, sometimes up to 2 feet thick. Experts say that the largest threat to redwoods is climate change caused by humans (stay posted for a post just on this topic!).

Most of the Bay Area is faced with severely poor air quality caused by smoke. For this reason, schools and businesses have been forced to close. In Concord, California, the AQI reached 24 overnight, which is considered “extremely unhealthy.” At this number on the index, it is suggested that no one goes outside for any period of time.

What can be done?

The Californian governor has stated that everything possible is being done to contain the fires. Climate experts have said that reversing and decreasing climate impact and climate change would help slow the increase in the number and severity of these fires. Unfortunately, nothing can be done to prevent lightning storms, the cause of some of the largest fires in the state.

Recent rainstorms have helped firefighters contain the fires.

COVID Concerns

For those staying with friends and family as a result of evacuations orders, concerns have arisen about the spread of COVID-19. Especially for those with underlying health conditions and elderly/young, COVID-19 has made the decision to stay with friends and family more difficult than under normal circumstances.

Additionally, the extremely poor air quality is especially dangerous during a pandemic. The smoky and ashy air can damage people’s immune systems, making them more susceptible to contract COVID-19.

What you’re seeing is people’s systems are becoming more sensitive to [the coronavirus]…Just the smoke alone induces a lot of asthma, bronchitis, COPDs (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)…You’re going to be more susceptible to any other disease just because your system is already overtaxed.

Dr. John Watson (air quality expert)

Because the air quality poses a significant health risk, the Air Resources Board has urged residents to stay indoors with the doors and windows shut, while running air conditioning to circulate air.

September Update

Updated Sept. 1, 2020:

More than two dozen wildfires continue to burn throughout California, with at least 8 dead as of the first of September. However, firefighters have reportedly made progress in the battle against these fires.

The past weekend’s cool weather has assisted firefighters with their task, but the National Weather Service warns that these next two weeks will be “the climatological peak of fire weather season in northwest California.”

Although some evacuation orders have been downgraded or lifted entirely, over 60,000 people remain under mandatory evacuation orders.


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Written by Anthony R.

Edited by Alina Z.

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