Waiting until the smoke clears

California, Oregon, Washington and other states are still being affected by a multitude of fires spanning throughout the country.

According to the California Fire Department, over four million acres have been burned, 8,320 wildfires are active, 31 confirmed fatalities have been recorded and 9,247 structures have been damaged or destroyed in these states so far.

“CAL FIRE’s unified team and the U.S. Forest Service are engaged in a coordinated and collaborative response to take suppressive action on the August Complex, which has been reconfigured into four zones,” said the California Fire Department in an update released on Oct. 10 about the August Complex Fire, located in Northern California.

These are much worse than last year’s statistics, with only 259,823 acres burned, 7,860 wildfires, three fatalities and 732 structures affected. Still active, the August Complex Fire currently holds the title of largest fire in recent Californian history.

“I’m not affected [by the fires] currently, but the Woolsey Fire almost burned down my neighborhood back in 2018,” said Samantha Kline ‘22. “We woke up to the sound of our cats hissing and our backyard on fire, so we evacuated.”

The United States might not end up being the only place affected by the fires. The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) reports that some smoke from the U.S. fires has started to reach Northern Europe through jetstreams, which could lead to even more problems.

“The fact that these fires are emitting so much pollution into the atmosphere that we can still see thick smoke over 8,000 kilometers away reflects just how devastating they have been in their magnitude and duration,” said CAMS scientist Mark Parrington in an interview with CNN.

Overall, evacuating has become normal around this time of year for many. Californians are continuing to lose belongings, homes or even lives to the fires, and now other states and possibly other countries are starting to be affected too.

“If we could bar people from going into the forests and starting fires, that would help,” said Daniel Jaffe, a University of Washington professor who studies the effects of wildfires in an interview with The New York Times. “If we could stop climate change, that would help. Better forest management would help. But right now, it combined into the perfect storm.”

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