Written by Jack Miller
As we shift into the latter half of 2020, California has just begun preparation for its wildfire season. Just as the season began in California an intense wildfire has sprung up in the northern region of the state, adding yet another aspect of chaos into the daily routine of locals. Much of California has been experiencing, alongside the Covid-19 epidemic, a record-breaking heatwave during the recent months. This dry climate, along with temperatures reaching triple digits for multiple days has created a terribly perfect environment for fires to spring up and take hold incredibly swiftly in northern California’s vast forests, including their historic Redwood Forests.
While native Californians find themselves forced to deal with forest fires on a regular basis; the extraordinary circumstances surrounding 2020 have caused this specific wave of fires to be extra detrimental to locals. With slower response teams due to the epidemic and restrictions of movement in place, officials were not able to get a hand on these fires and quell them as efficiently as usual. Due to this official have had to call on the extensive labor force of California’s 33 prisons. According to Business Insider, “California has relied on incarcerated firefighters as its primary ‘hand crews’ since the 1940s…”, these “hand crews” are called on to gain control of these outbursts of fire through-out the state’s wildfire season. Prisons in the northern California – where the fires are centralized – have been mostly depleted of their inmates due to this and effects of Covid-19.
Although the source of these wildfires are relatively unknown other, smaller blazes, have spread as well due to lightning strikes in densely wooded areas. Over 600,000 acres of mostly unpopulated forests have burned over the last week. These blazes, although moving quickly, are relatively confined to the areas north of Sacramento and San Francisco. The President has declared these fires a major disaster and has released federal aid and assistance to state officials to combat the blaze. He sites the cause of these fires as all the dead, low-lying brush in much of California’s forests that has been left uncleared for years.
The governor has declared a state of evacuation as of last week for much of northern California and the Bay Area. Around 60,000 people have been forced to leave their homes, however due to the outbreak of Covid-19 many of these refugees are forced seek solace in non-traditional ways. Since however, most of the state is facing droughts and a heatwave California officials are advising all residents to have a “go-bag” incase the need for fast evacuation arises. As of this week the blazes have sadly claimed 6 lives.