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What We Know About The California Wildfires

Local residents sit next to a vineyard as they watch the LNU Lightning Complex fire burning in nearby hills in Healdsburg, California.
Local residents sit next to a vineyard as they watch the LNU Lightning Complex fire burning in nearby hills in Healdsburg, California.

Wildfires are nothing new for Californian residents. Many have become accustomed to the warnings, evacuations and devastation. The blazes currently moving through the state, however, are different. Smoke and soot rendered certain portions of Californian air the dirtiest in the world last week. And with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, mounting an adequate response has become fatally complicated.

California relies on prison labor for its fire crews, and as COVID-19 has spread through corrections facilities, those able to staff the crews are few in number. Some residents are mounting ill-advised efforts to fight the blazes themselves, despite orders to evacuate.

The cause of the wildfires is thought to be the ignition of dry brush struck by lightning. The state recorded one of its driest ever winters this year. And an unusually hot spring meant that conditions were perfect for unprecedented blazes. Scientists believe these conditions will continue to recur as the effects of climate change progress.

How can Californians stay safe? How can future wildfires be prevented?

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