Abstract: Every year we hear about fires burning throughout California and the arid West. This year’s destructive fires are happening in the midst of a pandemic. Two of California’s still-burning infernos - sparked from lightning during a heat wave - have already ranked among the top three largest fires in state history. Experts tell us that we should expect fires of such ferocity to continue well into the future. The reasons for such destructive fires are many, including the higher temperatures, diminished ground and air moisture, extended droughts, and intensified storms all associated with climate change; historic fire suppression policies that leave built up fuel in the forests; and settlement in fireprone areas that can help ignite fires and leave people and their homes vulnerable. Though the danger posed by fire can suggest that it is something to battle against, fire is also a tool that provides heat, energy and light for humans. Moreover, fire is one of Earth’s natural processes, and it plays an important role in many ecosystems that humans rely upon. In short, fire brings both benefits and danger to humans, and, not surprisingly, we have a long and complex relationship with this elemental force.
Fire in California - 2020
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