By Nick Landgren
With an unclear cause, wildfires in multiple locations formed in California’s wine country recently. The fires broke out through the counties of Napa Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte and Solano, which were already facing drought conditions and extremely dry air.
The affected regions were already under a red flag fire warning, because of the extreme desert conditions the fires were able to grow and spread as quickly as they did. Shortly after the fires began, they became full-scale incidents, each growing with an intensity that spanned from 1,000 acres to 20,000 acres in one day’s time.
More than five days after the wildfires formed, they had spread through more than 210,000 acres and decimated an estimated 5,700 structures, forcing evacuations of upwards of 90,000 people. After the 1933 Los Angeles Fires killing 29 people, this year’s fires have been the deadliest in California state history with a current death toll of 42. The missing persons list topped out at 2,000 in the most directly affected counties. Now as officials have begun to get a handle on the damage, the list stands at only 50.
Residents of the state have been understandably concerned due to how quickly these fires spread from their point of origin.
“Although my family was not directly impacted by the fire, I have a lot of friends who live near the affected area so it was terrifying seeing it happen through a news outlet while I am so far away from them,” said Karolina Flores, sophomore.
Recently, however, there has been ongoing rain in the affected areas which has helped the regression and control of the fires. A resident of Chico, CA, explained her immediate concern when the alerts went out, but also expressed her relief now that officials seem to have gained control of the spread, “From the start I was worried about my hometown, we could all see the smoke coming from over the hills and from what they were saying about how fast they were spreading we were all really worried,” said Kahlil Johnson, sophomore at Chico State University.
Just days after the fires started, the air quality in Napa Valley, just a two-hour drive from Chico was ranked as the poorest in the nation due to high levels of particulates and ozone. “The air was really bad here for a few days, we couldn’t see the sky for a while,” said Kahlil. “When the rain came, we were all really happy, I think it helped clear some of the smoke from the air.”
The combination of extremely dry conditions and high-speed winds were the cause of the wide and fast spread of the fires. With ongoing efforts by California officials and relief aid from 26 different states, control over the continued spread is beginning to take effect and locals are hopeful that the recent ongoing rainfall will also help stop the continued growth of the wildfires.