Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency as a series of wildfires are plaguing California.
The National Weather Service has issued red-flag weather warnings for areas across Northern California and Southern California as these fires are spreading due to high winds. At least two hospitals have been evacuated.
Pacific Gas & Electric Company decided to shut down power for 940,000 clients in an attempt to prevent fires from spreading across power lines or sparking new fires.
The fire in Sonoma and Napa counties, otherwise known as the Kincaid fire, started Wednesday. Since then it has burned 54,298 acres of land and has forced 180,000 people to evacuate. The 3,400 firefighters at the scene reported the fire is at 5% containment.
The Getty fire in Los Angeles has burned 500 acres and forced 3,300 people to evacuate, including major celebrities such as LeBron James.
The Sky fire, Saddle Ridge fire, and Tick fire have all been reported as between 70% and 97% contained. Combined, the three fires have burned roughly 13,500 acres. There have been other fires across California as well.
California is notorious for using prison labor to fight the wildfires. The state has relied on incarcerated people to fight fires since the 1940s. To volunteer, the inmates must meet physical standards, complete a training course, not be serving a life sentence, and not be incarcerated for being an arsonist, kidnapper, sex-offender, or gang-affiliate. Inmates get paid $2 a day and $1 an hour, on sometimes 72-hour shifts. California officials have claimed that this program has saved them $90 million to $100 million a year.
The California wildfire-inmate program has been under intense controversy for multiple reasons. Activists have argued that not paying these inmates adequate wages is profiting off the prison system and creates a motive to keep prisoners incarcerated. Additionally, the inmates who serve fighting fires, often cannot get jobs as firefighters once being released because of their criminal records.
So far in 2019, California wildfires have burned roughly 162,693 acres and killed 3 people. These wildfires have been linked to the growing issue of climate change. According to a study done by Earth’s Future, “The clearest link between California wildfire and anthropogenic climate change thus far has been via warming-driven increases in atmospheric aridity, which works to dry fuels and promote summer forest fire.” When the earth’s temperature increases, the air becomes drier and the land becomes drier, which allows for wildfires to catch and spread.
Former California Governor Jerry Brown stated, “This is only the beginning. This is only a taste of the horror and terror that will occur in decades.”
Sources: Weather Channel 10/28/19, Los Angeles Times 10/28/19, Sacramento Bee 10/28/19, Vox 08/9/18, CNN 10/30/19