California Wildfires | 2020 Edition
Wildfires are tricky. They can start from either natural or man-made causes, but however they start, they’re incredibly difficult to control. California in the summer is affected particularly badly due to a few unique conditions - high temperatures, dry conditions, and being wedged and isolated between the Pacific Ocean and Rocky Mountains. Those mountains are no joke, either! They’re big and formidable enough to disrupt certain weather patterns, thus creating a desert-like climate over much of California.
Of course, “desert-like” is just another way to say that the region doesn’t get much rain, and widespread rain is by far the best way to subdue wildfires.
On the flip side, fires can actually be beneficial to forests and land. They can serve as a reset, helping to turn over the farmland, get rid of excess debris, and reveal fresh soil and nutrients from below. Think of it as a phoenix effect - the phoenix gets sick, burns itself up, and then revitalizes itself from the ashes more bold and beautiful than before. It’s a classic birth-death-rebirth cycle.
This current batch of wildfires started naturally from bolts of lightning. When lightning hits the already dry land and trees, they can easily catch fire - and those fires spread. Unfortunately, these fires aren’t easily contained and they can quickly spread into residential areas, major metropolises, and farmland.
California has a thriving agricultural industry and fires pose a direct risk to it. These impacts are felt across the nation, though, as many of the crops produced in California are exported outside of it. This isn’t limited to fruits and vegetables, either. The California wine industry is often heavily impacted and disrupted by fires, which can result in immense financial losses for both vineyards and individuals. Also, don’t forget that a big part of the wine industry is comprised of paid vineyard tours and tasting rooms, neither of which can take place when fires are burning nearby.
And yes, the cannabis industry can be similarly affected. Typically growing in regions near to the vineyards (though they can actually grow in most places), cannabis crops are extremely vulnerable to wildfires. The growth cycle for one crop can span a couple of months, but a portion of the peak planting season overlaps with wildfire season - or the summer.
Wildfires have been blazing across the state for many days by now, with over 7000 individual fires burning up 1.4 million acres of land. Compared to this time last year, approximately 56,000 acres had burned - a mere fraction of the 2020 figure.
To control the blaze, firefighters from across the country have flown into California to help, but don’t forget - we’ve still got a pandemic! Circumstances surrounding the coronavirus may serve to complicate or slow down efforts. Considering how much worse this year’s fire is than last’s, climate experts say we can expect to see this worsening trend continue over the coming years before, maybe, getting better.