California has been burning for several days now with this round of wildfires. Many sources note the leading cause is a lack of precipitation for the past few winters. California wildfires are spreading easily, with drought and bark beetles killing the trees.
According to the Green Blog, California has experienced extremely dry winters over the past four years. In April of this year, surveyors flew over the Southern Sierra, noting over 10 million dead trees. The Green Blog states that most of the dead trees are the ponderosa pine species.
This article also says there is a rise in the populations of certain tree-eating beetles. The pine beetle, for instance, has increased its numbers greatly. While the Green Blog notes these beetles are native to the area, it is usually only in small numbers, killing only a few trees and clearing the decaying ones.
However, Green Blog says with the trees weakening due to the drought they are more vulnerable to the beetles. This increases the food supply for the beetles, therefore causing them to multiply greatly. Scientists claim that the insects call others to the tree until it has been overrun and dies. When the beetles’ population is this high they explain it is even hard for the healthy trees to fight off the attack.
The Green Blog recommends that the best way to prevent the growth of the insect population is to let healthy trees fight them off themselves. Densely packed forests are hit the worst because there is not enough nutrients or water to go around. They also say private landowners can save trees by watering them more. The beetles killing the trees and the extreme drought are fueling the California wildfires.
The Los Angeles Times reports the dry conditions are causing the most problems for firefighters. They explain that this coupled with the extremely high temperatures are creating many challenges. The L. A. Times say that 10 mph winds are working to spread the flames despite firefighters’ efforts against the California wildfires.
A local station, KPCC, is reporting hundreds of people had to be evacuated from the San Bernardino National Forest. The South Coast Air Quality Management District claims with all the smoke, conditions will become unhealthy from the California wildfires.
USA Today reports that the California wildfires have spread to over 15,000 acres in the last day. However, officials say it is 10 percent contained. The fire department says the flames are threatening The San Gorgonio wilderness area, which has not seen a fire in recent history. The spokesperson for the fire department explains how these conditions and the rise in beetles are contributing to the rapid spread.
According to USA Today, officials are warning homeowners to be cautious and have plans for evacuation in place. Yet, they maintain that they are not worried it will come to that. NBC News confirms there are over 1,200 people battling the flames. Helicopters have been working to drop gallons of water on these California wildfires.
USA Today shows there are other fires across the state burning as well. Madera County has a 1,000-acre fire that has destroyed three buildings. Furthermore, Sierra National Forest has had 500 acres burned so far.
The reports state areas that are not yet burning are still affected by the smoke from the flames. Surrounding towns are under advisory for unhealthy air conditions. They claim smoke is reaching as far as the state of Arizona.
The California wildfires are being fueled by horrible drought conditions and a massive increase in the number of beetles killing the trees. Most authorities agree that without substantial rainfall this will be a bad fire season for the state.
By Megan Hellmann
Green Blog-Forest and Tree Health in a Time of Drought
The Los Angeles Times- Drought-Driven Wildfire Scorching 11,000 Acres in Rarely Burned Area Near Big Bear
89.3KPCC- Lake Fire Near Big Bear Grows to 11,000 Acres
NBC News-San Bernardino Lake Fire: 1,200 Fight Flames, Smoke Felt in Arizona
USA Today-California Fire Scorches 15,000 Acres, 10% Contained
Photo Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License
Photo Courtesy of Nasa’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License