Drought & Deadly Wildfires
Now extreme weather is manifesting itself in the form of record drought conditions that produce famine in some parts of the world. Here in the U.S. drought followed by high winds and then combined with such phenomena as insect infestations in forest lands and manmade causes including land management and building code practices or electrical accidents have created some of the worst wildfires on record in California and in parts of the Southwest. As is often the case with extreme weather events, manmade factors can complicate and amplify the destructive force of the event itself. The Camp Fire in northern California in late 2018 became the worst fire in the state’s history killing more than 80 people and destroying thousands of homes. The 2019 “fire season” brought another round of deadly fires to the state and again in 2020 more fires raged – a lethal combination of drought conditions and man-made causes. The 2020 fire season far surpassed previous years and fires still burned even after the official end of the season.
Well into another year of severe drought and record extreme heat, the 2021 fire season looms ominous with two fires east of Phoenix, AZ that burned more than 100,000 acres in less than a week. During the Pack Creek Fire near Moab, Utah which is now contained, Americares provided supplies for the Moab Free Health Clinic as poor air quality affects patients and staff. Oregon’s Bootleg Fire consumed more than 400,000 acres as the second round of heat waves is seeing dozens of fires ignite across at least 13 Western States. The Dixie Fire in Northern California has consumed over 630,000 acres and is the second largest in the state’s history. The Caldor Fire expanded rapidly and threatened communities, leading to more evacuations as the fire crossed into Nevada and approached the Lake Tahoe area.
And then we face the deadly results of extreme heat which is actually a top weather killer – sometimes after a storm where power and access to clean water are lost – as is happening now in Louisiana after Ida. Heat kills nearly twice as many Americans each year as tornadoes and almost three times more than hurricanes. It is particularly deadly for the elderly. Climate change continues to intensify the deadly results of extreme weather events. Photo by Gene Blevins / REUTERS