It’s a lot to take in: 8,100+ fires have burned over 3.8 million acres since the beginning of the year. And since August 15th when California’s fire activity elevated, over 5,500 structures have been leveled. In fact, some experts are already calling 2020 the worst fire season in the history of California.
Our hearts go out to anyone that is impacted, and to the over 18,700 firefighters that are out there around the clock battling these historic blazes.
Despite these challenges, California's landscape history goes back countless generations and is worth exploring to better understand how we got here.
If you’re wondering why California fires are getting worse, the answer might come as a surprise: although science shows that climate change is driving the increasing severity, over 90% of wildfires in the United States are caused by people. And while we’ve all heard about the gender reveal party that sparked the deadly El Dorado fire, many of our everyday activities can also ignite them. We may not be able to stop California forest fires entirely because California has a unique fire ecology, but if you reside in a state that is prone to drought or forest fires, it's imperative to follow forest safety guidelines and prevent potential disasters.
Here are 9 simple actions you can take to prevent future fires in California:
1. Don’t Set Off Pyrotechnics
We get it: fireworks are as American as baseball and apple pie, and they sure are fun to set off. And gender reveal smoke bombs are all the rage these days, but in a hot and dry environment, they just aren’t worth the risk.
2. Carefully Dispose of Smoking Materials
Be it a joint or a cigarette, douse your butts with water and place in a fire-proof container to safely dispose of when you’re sure they’ve gone out. And whatever you do, don’t toss them on the ground.
3. Camp Responsibly
Make sure the conditions are safe and that there isn’t a fire ban where you are — and never leave your campfire unattended. When you’re done, douse it and wait until it’s completely cold to the touch before leaving your campsite.
4. Mow the Lawn Before 10 a.m.
If you need to mow your lawn, the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group recommends doing it early. But if it’s excessively windy and dry, wait for another day because the metal blades can easily spark a fire if they strike a rock.
5. Make Sure Your Exhaust is Up to Par
Check the exhaust of your vehicle, chainsaw, leaf blower, etc. to make sure it’s equipped with spark arrestors, which prevent engines from emitting flammable debris. And keep in mind that your exhaust can reach temperatures of 1,000+ degrees!
6. Stay on the Road
Off-roading is a blast, but it can have deadly consequences if done in grasslands or areas with heavy brush. Stick to gravel and asphalt, especially during dry seasons. In fact, the best time to off-road in California may be when the ground is saturated with rain or covered in snow.
7. Keep a Close Eye on Candles
Innocent though they may seem, candles are a leading cause of home fires. In fact, their flames can burn as hot as 1,400+ degrees! Your best bet? Place them into sturdy containers that can’t be knocked over, like a mason jar. And never leave them unattended.
8. Create and Maintain Defensible Space
If you own, clear away any dead trees, brush, and vegetation within 100 ft. of your home. This helps slow and/or stop the spread of wildfires within your community. It will also protect firefighters as they battle fires around your home.
9. Landscape for Fire Resistance
While you're at it, incorporate fire-resistant plants like french lavender, sage, and California fuchsia and fire-retardant species like aloe, rockrose, and ice plant into your property. Take it one step further by creating fire-resistant zones with stone walls, patios, decks, etc.
Right now, all efforts are going towards battling California’s historic wildfires. And if you live within a fire zone, we hope that you're safe.
Once the fires have been put out, we will work with our partners in California to restore ecosystems that have been affected by the blazes. Want to learn more about what we’re doing to help California’s forests? Check out our California projects now, or learn more in our new six-part video series: The State of California.
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by Meaghan Weeden