As the “Woolsey” and “Camp Fire” wildfires are still burning and firefighters are desperately working to contain the situation, we are focusing on all the wrong points of the story.
According to National Geographic, wildfires are uncontrolled blazes fueled by weather, wind and dry underbrush that can burn consume everything in their paths. They are formed by fuel or flammable material, oxygen and a heat source. With this information, it makes sense that California is a hotbed for wildfires.
But, when we have our president spreading misinformation to the public about these fires, it makes the situation worse. On Nov. 10, Trump took to Twitter to write that, “there is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor,” and later threatening to take away funding if the problem isn’t solved.
This statement assumes that these wildfires were caused because of negligence by California forest management, but that’s not the case. The current wildfires are actually classified as fires within the wildland-urban interface. This means these communities are near undeveloped wildlands which makes these areas susceptible to fires since they are in the direct path of a fire’s fuel. According to a 2015 Department of Agriculture report, 44 million houses are in the wildland-urban interface with high concentrations in Florida, Texas and, you guessed it, California. That is why we are seeing such a major destruction. These urban areas have no separation like development, that would protect them from destructive fires. But when it comes down to it, with fires like Camp Fire and Woolsey, nothing would protect these areas. The fires are too strong and, frankly, too hot and fast to be slowed down or prevented by the firefighters’ efforts. This isn’t one federal or state agency’s fault. This is a problem that is getting worse every year. The Union of Concerned Science wrote an article in July detailing their understanding that global warming which is intensifying the hot and dry conditions in the western U.S. and increasing the frequency and strength of these fires. But that’s a completely different discussion we should be having.
But misunderstandings in this administration aren’t the only problem. Some of the media has really spun this story to ridiculous proportions by focusing way too much on celebrities and not civilians. CBS, ABC, The New York Times and CNN are only a few of the credible sources who are guilty of this. Yes, these fires did affect people living in California, especially in celebrity neighborhoods, but there are thousands of California residents who don’t have this public status. These residents are facing true hardship that is heartbreaking and is a story of its own. Celebrities can face this hardship as well but they also have the money and resources to rebuild. These so-called civilians might not have the same luxury and that is a problem we should be talking more about.
These fires are a major problem in the western U.S and these conditions are only getting worse. We need to stop focusing on celebrities and misinterpreted information and focus on the root of the problem. The countless lives that are affected by these tragedies and how we can help prevent these issues.