Massive wildfires are currently spreading through California. The Thomas Fire that has spread through Ventura has already burned 31,000 acres and has forced 27,000 people from their homes. The constant occurrence has people always asking, why does California have so many wildfires?
California is extremely prone to wildfires. Fire has played a large role in shaping the flora and fauna of the region. Fires tend to combust in the Fall due to a relationship between dry and warm winds.
After dry and sunny summers, powerful warm winds known as the Santa Ana winds (from the south) meet the Diablo winds in the north. This union creates the ability to spread wildfires faster than they would in any other region to due the intense wind speeds.
The current fires can be correlated with a wet winter in 2017, which allowed for a healthy season of vegetation. That was then followed by a record hot summer, that dried up all of the winter’s growth and led to a highly flammable forested region.
This exact effect can be seen in some of the most hard hit regions, such as Santa Rosa and Napa.
What Causes Wildfires?
Contrary to the ‘wild’ moniker, these fires are mostly caused by the carelessness of human activity (according to the national park services).
As many as 90 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans. Some human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, the burning of debris, negligently discarded cigarettes and intentional acts of arson. The remaining 10 percent are started by lightning or lava.
Lightning is a natural cause of wildfires. “Hot lightning” has currents with less voltage, but these occur for a longer period of time. Fires are usually started by unusually long-lasting hot lightning bolts.
There are also deliberate causes of wildfires, not just natural or accidental. Native Americans tribes used fire to cultivate the plants they preferred.