Wildfire in California Demonstrates our Vulnerability


Wayne Chen, Staff Writer

Swarms of fire, seemingly coming from of nowhere, encroached rapidly from the deep woods into the cities of northern Bay Area over the past month. Before they could prepare, the people of Sonoma and Napa counties found themselves rushing away from their homes, often seconds before flames consumed their entire wooden houses and took away everything they possessed. The fire approached so quickly that it left absolutely no time for hesitation and most of the 41 victims died because they were caught off guard when the fire came. Its cause is now attributed to an unusual weather pattern that might permanently change California’s natural landscape. Worst of all, it shows just how unprepared we are against mass destructions like these, all while the Environmental Protection Agency is withdrawing its financial support.

California governor Jerry Brown said on Saturday that the fire is, “truly one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tragedies California has ever faced … It’s a horror that no one could have imagined.” A historically affluent area that is famous for its mild weather, production of wine and grapes and its proximity to San Francisco and Silicon Valley, North Bay is rarely what comes to mind when it comes to disaster-prone areas. Despite occasional earthquakes that can rattle the entire region, people of North Bay have never considered the area they live in as dangerous. However, with a recent spike in winds and a rise in average temperature, this could very well evolve into a regular pattern.

The outcomes we have seen so far merely shows that Californians, and perhaps most Americans, are not ready for what some have called “the new normal.” Alex Hall, a climate researcher at UCLA, said that drier winds, resulting from global warming, is to blame. The wildfire adds to a long list of natural disasters whose cause is attributed to climate change, including Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which together devastated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. The most effective measure to help prevent climate change is sponsoring the EPA for its research and advocacy efforts to curb carbon exhaustion, which is the most direct and primary cause of global warming. However, since the appointment of Scott Pruitt as the head of EPA, we have seen a continually diminishing amount of efforts in protecting the environment, with more news of funding cuts coming out on a regular basis. Scientists receiving federal grants are among the latest group to be affected by the budget cuts.

As natural disasters occur more frequently and on a deadlier level than ever, Americans are receiving a wake-up call that climate change is real and they cannot assume they will not face its consequences. The EPA should ramp up its research and investments toward looking for a long-term solution, rather than cutting funding on the most critical issues, leaving the United States with increasing uncertainty in facing the inevitable disasters.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them. Email Wayne Chen at [email protected].