Right now, California is in more danger than ever before. With COVID-19 cases still widespread, and wildfires starting in multiple areas, there’s more to be aware of too.
Here are all the latest updates on wildfires in California, and how to stay safe during this frightening time.
COVID-19 Cases and Evacuation
Right now, California has the most COVID-19 cases nationwide. It’s the first state to surpass 600,000 cases nationwide, with over 10,000 Californians dying to the disease. Because of this, residents are still being cautious of the virus, even in the face of wildfires.
This has caused problems for those needing to evacuate from their homes. In regular times, residents would evacuate to a predesignated safe space, such as a school, where they could wait out the fires. With COVID-19 so common though, many are afraid to stay in the buildings. There have been reports of evacuees sleeping in their cars, as they’re so concerned about catching or spreading the illness themselves.
If you need to evacuate, you need to know where to go. Evacuation zones will still need to stick to social distancing guidelines, and require wearing masks. Check your nearest shelter to see what protections they are putting in place.
It’s also important to include supplies like masks and hand sanitizer in your evacuation kit, so you’re ready when you get to the shelter.
Power Outages Strike the State
As the wildfires rage, power outages are becoming more common. Rolling blackouts are happening thanks to the record heatwave that’s happening right now in the state. These have been happening without warning, causing serious problems for those trying to stay safe in the heat right now. Governor Gavin Newsom has written to the California Energy Commission and the California Public Utilities Commission, to try and get power back to all areas of the state.
If you’re facing rolling blackouts in your area, you’ll need to have a plan in place for keeping cool. There are cooling centers that you can take advantage of, such as malls and libraries if that’s possible for you. If you’re able to follow social distancing, and have access to cleaning facilities to wash your hands frequently, then this may be the best option for you.
If you’re not able to, you’ll have to find ways to stay cool at home without your AC. Look into battery powered fans, cooling packs, and anything that can be used to keep cool without power.
Smoke Impacts Air Quality
With the wildfires comes smoke, and this is creating real problems when it comes to air quality. Right now, global air quality monitoring services are showing air quality to be worse in California than it is in eastern China. This is going to have a knock on impact when it comes to COVID-19, too. Many of the symptoms of the virus and smoke inhalation mimic each other, so you may not be able to tell which it is if you come down with a cough.
The best way to know is to check for other symptoms of COVID-19, such as chills or a loss of taste or smell. If this happens to you, follow the state COVID-19 self isolation rules to limit your exposure to others. To avoid smoke inhalation, stay indoors as much as possible. Keep windows and doors shut too in order to keep smoke out of your home.
Right now, multiple wildfires are being started by lightning strikes in California, leading to more danger for those who live there. There are multiple lightning clusters that have sparked off wildfires, such as the SCU Lightning Complex and the LNU Lightning Complex.
During this week alone, there have been over 11,000 lightning bolts that have hit the state, which have ignited hundreds of fires. Right now, there are 367 fires currently burning thanks to these lightning storms.
If you are living in an area at risk of fire thanks to these storms, ensure that you have an evacuation plan in place, and practice it with your family. You want to be able to evacuate as quick as possible, should you need to.
Climate Change and Wildfires
Something you may not have thought about is the way climate change has effected wildfires in California. As the earth heats up, it’s creating the perfect situations for them to spark. California has increased in temperature by 2.5 degrees since the 70s, and that heat is working to dry out the state at large. When forests are so dry, they’re the perfect fuel.
There’s also the issue of reduced snowfall. As there’s less melting snowpack, that results in less moisture in the soil, which can help slow fires.
Right now you’ll already be seeing the increase in wildfires thanks to climate change. If it goes unchecked, you can expect the effects to double by 2060.
How You Can Stay Safe
There’s a lot going on in California right now, and it’s going to be stressful to anyone who lives there. If you take the right steps though, you can come through the wildfire season unscathed.
Firstly, as discussed above, ensure that you have a plan in place to evacuate your home. If you know this plan, you’ll be able to keep everybody safe. You’ll also need to ready your home for fire, in case the fires come near your home. Cut back any flammable vegetation, and ready your home for fire fighters should they need to come in.
Finally, you should already be taking steps to keep yourself safe from COVID-19, so you’ll need to keep doing this. Pack masks and hand sanitizer into your evacuation kit, and keep your distance from others whenever possible. Remember that social distancing still needs to be observed, even in shelters.
These are all the updates concerning wildfires in California right now. Now that you have all the information, you’ll be able to take the right precautions to ensure you stay safe.