Earth News Journal 5: Wildfires Trend

Fire is an incredible force of nature. It blazes bright pigments of red, orange, and yellow, while destroying every plant, grassland, and home within its path – churning everything into a charcoaled dust.

During the week of August 29, 2013, a wildfire began to ignite the Yosemite National Park in California, according to an article on theNational Geographic website. By Thursday, 184,000 acres had been consumed in the fire’s path, with a large area still left in the wake of the flames.

United States Forest Service members and Ecology researchers across the country agree that the natural phenomenon of wildfires is morphing into an entirely new threat to society. National temperatures are rising – some climate experts predict temperatures could rise as much as 12.6°F within the next several years.

Already, Arizona has seen its “ten-year average temperature increase by 2.3°F, compared to 1.6°F for the entire United States.” Also, precipitation has been lacking in the western states, especially in recent summer months.

Higher temperatures and a drier climate create the perfect opportunity for a wildfire to materialize and expand rapidly. Additionally, an increase in low, grounded vegetation within western states has added to the fuel of the fire. The consequence to suppressing naturally-conceived fires in places that have once burned before is the build-up of dry, bush-like shrubbery.

This vegetation actually makes the land more susceptible to wildfires, by providing adequate ammunition. Human society has also begun to invade the fire’s space out West. Each year, more and more people are moving to WUIs, or wildland-urban interface locations. Local governments see the economic prosperity in increasing the development of WUIs, but do not have the appropriately-sized firefighting forces to squelch a raging wildfire, once it begins.

Some communities are compelling residents to take mitigation measures, like “building structures that are made of fire-resistant materials.” Other areas have ignored the blazing issue altogether, adopting to blame Mother Nature once the fires ignite the months of September and October. The making and controlling of wildfires in the West is a natural process that has been changed, and will continue to change, based on human interactions and inappropriate nature interventions.

Reflection

The force of fire has always fascinated me, and yet scared me, at the same time. Nothing beats squatting around a campfire on a warm, summer night, toasting my hands and feet by the light of the flame. Nevertheless, I’ve not yet had an experience with the full-on force of fire, as in the case of a wildfire (knock on wood). Therefore, I cannot accurately fathom the sheer magnitude of such a force of nature. I would like to see the United States adopt a policy of preservation, rather than intervention, in nature. I feel as if we “dance around the flames” too often, in our interactions with the natural world. We always seem so surprised and shocked when humans die from natural disasters, but no one ever asks, “Could these deaths have been prevented if the course of human actions over months, years, or centuries had been altered?” I believe we should hold nature in a reverence, not as an object to control and reprimand when it misbehaves. We should let nature go and let it be. The Earth can work fine without us – it has in the past and will continue to do so in the future, until the end of time. 

Kramer, Melody. “Why Big, Intense Wildfires Are the New Normal.” National Geographic. N.p., 28 Aug. 2013. Web. 29 Aug. 2013.

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