For the past few months, I saw nothing but smoky skies. The sun was a gorgeous but fearful bright red, little pieces of ash fell from the sky, and my nose became accustomed to the strong smell of smoke. While I don't live super close to the fires, the smoke from the Bay Area and the Foothills drifted and settled over the valley. There were a few days in which I wore a mask for another reason than respecting the safety of myself and others. I actually started to miss the sunny, blue sky.
My Personal Experiences
Since around August of this year, I have seen nothing but smoke. I remember sitting in my room, working on a presentation for one of my classes, and hearing the thunder rolling by. I was so excited to see the lightning flashing in the sky because thunderstorms are rare in my area. I thought that the thunder and lightning would be met with lots of rain, but I was very wrong. Instead, the thunderstorm started multiple fires throughout all of California. From there on, there was nothing but smoke and fires for months. Blue sky was beginning to appear until another fire started in the Bay Area. Suddenly, ash started falling from the sky again, and there was a heavy smell of smoke. I could even smell the smoke inside my house, and that's saying something.
I have family on the coast, so I'm always aware of the fires that are burning near their houses. During both of the fires within the past three years, one of my family members always ends up crying out of fear of what could happen to the ones who had to evacuate, and what would become of their homes that hold so much sentimental value. This past year, my family and I welcomed my grandma back into our house for a week while everything at her house was settling back down.
Meanwhile, the rest of our loved ones stayed at a friend's house and made the best out of their strange, new situation. They spent about a day away from their house before they were allowed to return. Within that time, my mom, dad, and I worried about their well-being and questioned what changes would follow if the fires got worse near their house. On the bright side, I got to spend a lot of quality time with my grandma which I cherished immensely. Other than that, the fires have created plenty of worry for people all across California and their family members all over the world.
California is an amazing place to live, but the fires are growing progressively worse each year.
In the past 3 years, my family on the coast has had to evacuate from their homes twice. Luckily, their houses and the houses surrounding them have been protected both times, but nonetheless, it's always a scary experience for all of us.
While the eastern part of the United States is forced to live with longer and worse wet seasons, the western part is forced to face the polar opposite. After the fire season when Paradise went up in flames, I along with many others thought that it could never get worse. This past summer has proved us all wrong. Because of the changing climate, this issue is supposed to continue to get worse year after year.
Since the temperatures keep rising each summer, many of the vegetation and overgrowth becomes drier and drier. In other words, the overgrowth becomes more productive in the industry of fueling fires. You can read more here.Furthermore, the worsening winds love to lend a hand when it comes to spreading fires. During the summer and the fall, the winds are almost always dry and hot. That makes it the perfect condition for tiny fires trying to grow. Each year, the winds grow hotter and more dry, so I don't see this issue clearing up any time soon.
To avoid lawsuits, PG&E have started to turn off the power in the areas around my house.
While it's not a completely bad idea, I feel like there could've been a much better way to handle being potentially blamed. For one, they could keep up maintenance of the trees near power lines. I know that was supposedly what caused the Camp Fire of Paradise in 2018. While a company is trying to reduce their lawsuits by not being blamed for starting fires, thousands of homes state-wide have had to learn how to cope with not having power. It has become quite concerning for businesses, especially the ones that sell food and frozen goods. My grandma has had to clean out her refrigerator multiple times within the past two years.
This year has been a different struggle for those who lost and continue to lose their power. This year, it's all about the students who have to do distance learning. Without the power on, students are often forced to skip their Zoom meetings or turning in homework might be a lot harder to do. Overall this isn't the best precaution to prevent fires, but it's currently the main one that's used.
How To Help Fight The Fires
As for the maintenance of our forests and the brush around people's homes, clean-up crews of volunteers could rise up to clean up the dead leaves and remove the dead trees. While they're at it, we could also improve the environment by planting baby trees in their place. While it might take lots of time, money, and it might not cure the issue of fires completely, it's still worth it to invest in the nature around our homes. Long term, if it does reduce the spread of fires, lots of homes will be saved and hundreds of lives will still stay with us for years to come.
The extra benefit from planting new trees is that in the long run, we'll be improving our environment for the future. If we can start to reverse the damage we've caused to our world, or at least slow it down, we can improve the quality of life for the next generations. Some of those improvements include reducing fires, keeping the icebergs frozen, and decreasing the intensity of tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean.