Wildfires Ravage The West Coast


Photo via ABC7 San Francisco

Michelle Kurianowicz, Staff Writer

The year 2020 has been the epitome of an eventful year. The most prominent events have included the hysteria of the COVID-19 epidemic, Kobe Bryant’s death, the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and the Black Lives Matter protests, just to name a few. However, the fires that are ravaging the west coast have made huge impacts on the daily lives of those who reside there. 

So far, 2020 has been the most active fire year on record for the West coast, having double the amount of cumulative fire detections since 2018, according to the New York Times. The majority of fires happened due to lightning strikes, climate change, and outdated forest management practices, which all provided the perfect recipe for disaster. In Almeda, Oregon, a fire was being investigated as possible arson as people set off fireworks in a dry, wooded area. In both Oregon and Washington, areas that had been untouched by forest fires for decades were burned. According to Governor Kate Brown of Oregon, several towns had been “substantially destroyed” by the tragic fires. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes, thousands of homes have been burned, and people have been rendered homeless. As of September 9th, 2020, the New York Times reported seven deaths from wildfires. Anna Kurianowicz, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, witnessed the impacts of the wildfires firsthand. “It’s tragic seeing individuals losing their homes and being displaced while there is so much going on in the world right now. I’ve been just reminding myself to keep going and to feel grateful for what I still have despite any hardships that are coming my way.”

Other than devastating numerous towns and forests, wind from the wildfires sent thick layers of soot and smoke across the whole west coast, leaving residents with polluted air and dangerous air quality levels, and darkened skies. Breathing in this soot and smoke can worsen respiratory conditions such as asthma, and could unfortunately lead to strokes and even heart attacks. Wildfire smoke inhalation has also been linked to impaired lung function in adults and lower birth weight for babies. 

Stopping climate change can be a solution. Higher levels of forest management can be a solution. But as of right now and for the foreseeable future, California and the rest of the West Coast will be experiencing these devastating natural disasters during the dry season.