California Wildfires — Worst Year In History

California Wildfires — Worst Year In History

In December of 2017, we witnessed mother nature at her worst. A bevy of wildfires popped up throughout the state of California. The fires ranged from north San Francisco to San Diego. The most threatening fires were in northern San Fernando Valley and northern Los Angeles. The largest fires consumed 90,000 acres in just a few days.

The incredibly large fires took the state and nation by storm. The Thomas Fire burned through the woodlands to the north of Ventura. The Thomas Fire became a viral video when it burned right up to the edges of the 405 Freeway, where roughly 400,000 cars use for transportation per day, and shut down the northbound lanes. Nearly 200,000 people were forced to evacuate Ventura, Los Angeles, and their surrounding areas. In the Bel-Air area, an additional 700 homes were evacuated due to a 475-acre fire burning on their heels.

Reasons The Fires Began

Every year, California has a wildfire season where residents are on high alert for a fire that might pop up out of the blue. This season typically does not stretch into December, but in 2017 it did; and it brought havoc. Some of the reasons for the extended season are:

  • Weather patterns
    • 2017 began with an unusually high amount of precipitation. The heavy precipitation in the beginning led to massive vegetation growth. In a normal year, the vegetation growth would not be a big deal. Unfortunately, the high precipitation was followed by an extremely dry summer, drying out the vegetation that had just grown. This leaves a bountiful of fuel for the fires to burn.
  • Expanded Fire Season
    • It has been reported that fire season is getting longer every year. The expanding season has been attributed to climate change.
  • Growing Residential Areas
    • California has been developing rapidly. Residential areas are expanding closer to the woodlands, putting homes closer to the danger areas that they have been in the past. One area that was affected by the fires in Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa’s population has increased 13% from 2000-2010. The wildfires of December 2017 destroyed 5% of the homes in this town.
  • Santa Ana Winds
    • The Santa Ana Winds are winds that bring hot, dry air from inland California towards the Pacific Ocean. These winds were consistent during the fires, at some points reaching gusts of 80 mph, carrying the fires over large areas.