Mike Parker, Chairman of SeSaME, writes…
JUST what is reality? One reality is the USA, and other countries, had just about mastered the annual phenomena of wild fires following the seasons. Most residents going to bed, even in forested areas, had nothing to fear for their home’s safety.
A new reality is the wildfire season has become longer, based on conditions allowing fires to start and to burn. Winter snows are melting earlier and rain is coming later in the autumn. A once four-month fire season now lasts six to eight months. Fires in recent years have burned well outside of the typical fire season throughout California, and many other countries. Fires in the winter months are becoming part of the norm.
Climate change’s contribution to the increased likelihood of uncontrollable fires has been ignored and other causes blamed, like not removing tinder-dry brush and dead wood.
We know climate change has lengthened fire seasons from years of scientific meteorological study. In this way even if the probability of a fire on any given day remained unchanged, there are now more days where fire is a possibility. Climate change has increased the likelihood of drought. Not only is vegetation getting drier with warmer temperatures, but lack of rainfall can double down on that drying.
Here is a hard reality it should be impossible to ignore. In 2018 Julian Martinez, a resident of Paradise, California was woken at 7am by the sound of really strong winds, then saw a plume of smoke in the far distance. At 8am he realised they needed to flee the area, and as they left the sky blacked out. They just made it away before the whole town became gridlocked. Thousands of residents fled their homes, whilst 85 sadly died in the blaze. When Julian managed to return he passed burnt out cars where people had died. His house was reduced to a flat gray ashen surface, with the mature 120 foot tree that had fronted the house just an insignificant stump. Everything gone!
We humans, self entitled wise, caused that loss. So there we have it – our own crass climatic reality.