Opinion: California wildfires must not be forgotten


Ioanna Tsompanellis

In this past year, California has seen a massive surge in wildfires. Seniors Shaina Julis and Jaimie Alessi believe that people must do their part in remaining educated, even though media coverage on the fires has slowed.

Shaina Julis and Jaimie Alessi

Over the past years, wildfires on the west coast have been destroying land, homes, and livelihoods. 

Californians have been hit the hardest by the increasing amount of wildfires in their state. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CALFire), the fires in 2020 had gotten so terrible that one million acres of property had been consumed in only a month. 

Even scarier than that, CALFire reported that just between Jan. 1 and Jan. 17 of 2021, about 861 acres of land were consumed by fires. This can be compared to a much lower statistic from Jan. 1 to Jan. 17 of 2020, where only 15 acres of land were consumed by fires. And yet, this mass destruction of land barely scratches the surface of the problem – if not taken seriously, these wildfires can result in a global rise in temperature, causing problems even for those who live far from the fires themselves.

Most of all, Southern California has been hit especially hard by the spreading of these powerful wildfires. 

We’ve seen the wind change drastically, so that’s what we’re telling all our personnel to be aware of – that constantly changing wind,” Captain Thanh Nguyen of the Orange County Fire Authority said in an article for The Guardian

The wind gusts have reached about 80 mph in California, only worsening the spread of the wildfires. Over 25,000 residents surrounding a horribly affected area, Silverado Canyon, were forced to evacuate their homes because of the danger they faced. It is extremely saddening to hear news of evacuations because all of these people’s lives are coming to a halt due to the severity of the fires. 

Unfortunately, there are people that do not believe in global warming, who are not aware of the risks that their daily behaviors have on the world we’re living in. Some detrimental human behaviors that will lead to an increase in wildfires and global warming are littering, gas pollution, and excessive use of plastic materials. If more people in our community cut back on these contributors to global warming, then we would see a decrease in wildfires among other global warming side effects.

The fires are not only a huge environmental hazard and a danger to wildlife and human lives, but they pose a great economic threat; the destruction of homes and businesses is costly and many don’t have the expenses to relocate. If we don’t make changes to our way of life, then we will slowly but surely continue to see these negative affects on our environment as well as our economy.

But why has there been less media coverage on the fires when they seem to only worsen every year?

“Fires take a proportional amount of coverage based on what else is going on,” an executive from the Los Angeles Times said. “When there are fires in August, a typically slow news period, they get a lot of coverage. There is a lot of other stuff politically happening at this moment and the fires are the only other story that has gotten coverage of any note.”

Another issue that media coverage presents is the dangers of reporters being in close proximity to a fire. Providing close proximity coverage is quite literally ‘playing with fire’ – being too close to the deadly fumes could kill them. 

Even worse, most wildfire coverage on television news networks fails to mention the link to our climate crisis. According to The Guardian, “A media watchdog analysis found that just 15% of broadcast news segments over a September weekend made the connection to climate breakdown.” 

We believe that to decrease the obscene amount of wildfires, each individual must do their part to decrease the effects of global warming. If everyone can make at least one lifestyle change, such as switching to reusable straws or walking instead of driving, then we will begin to see a positive change in our environment. Although news stations might not be covering the wildfires as often as they’re occurring, it is important to remember to keep yourself educated on the environmental issues surrounding climate change. If everyone is aware of these effects of climate change, then we could all do our part to help keep our planet as clean as possible.