Déjà Vu, All Over Again; Let’s Talk Wildfires… Again

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As the old song goes, second verse, same as the first. Another day, another achievement for the year that is 2020. Just a few short weeks after Death Valley hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit — reported to be the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth — another record has been set, also in California no less. As of Tuesday, the state fire agency, CAL FIRE, announced that 2.2 million acres of land had been burned by wildfires this year. This total surpasses the 1.9 million record set in 2018 and we still have four months to go in 2020’s official fire season. Oh, and we haven’t hit “the heart” of CA fires season yet either.

While the cause of these fires can’t necessarily all be blamed on climate change (was it worth it for the ‘Gram’?), the severity of the fires and sheer acreage burned largely can. Thanks to the overall dryness of the vegetation throughout the state and caused by continual, often record setting, heat waves, there is an abundance of fuel to feed these wildfires. As a result, these fires are getting closer and closer to populated areas causing power outages, structural damage and tens of thousands of evacuations — not to mention the ecological damage to nonhuman species. And it’s not just California. There are wildfires raging across the Pacific Northwest in Washington and Oregon as well as blazes reported in Utah, Nevada, Montana, and other states.

Even more (and in a call back to the Zombie Fires and record heat in Siberia that I wrote about in my previous newsletter), it has been revealed that wildfires in the Arctic have produced more carbon emissions this year than in any year on record. In 2020, an estimated 244 million tons of carbon dioxide have been released into the atmosphere thanks to Arctic wildfires, surpassing last year’s record total of 182 million and vastly surpassing the previous record of 110 million in 2004. To continue our repetitious theme, the release of these toxins then helps perpetuate a vicious negative feedback loop which leads to more rapid climate change, higher temperatures, more forest fires, and increased carbons emitted.

Unfortunately, I wish we could say any of this was new or surprising. While the severity may be getting worse with regards to acreage measured and CO2 released, the CA fire season of 2018, the devastating Australia wildfires of 2019, and other extreme weather events such as Hurricane Laura’s “unsurvivable storm surge” a few weeks ago, are just a few of the deadly reminders that unfortunately, COVID’s grasp on everyone’s favorite quarantine axiom — “new normal” — may not be as tight as it once seemed.

Tucker Pribor, Vice President, Investments

The Creek Fire, which has already burned over 160,000 acres of land and created a cloud of smoke visible from space, is reported 0% contained as of this morning. 45,000 residents have been evacuated already.

The California Community Foundation has compiled a Wildlife Relief Resource Page which compiles a number of different relief funds, agencies, and charities one can donate to as a means to help the current situation.

The 2017 movie Only The Brave, tells the story of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots that lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona in June of 2013. Hotshots are the elite fire crews that attempt to contain wildfires with chainsaws, shovels, and fires of their own.

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