Expert says climate change, human behavior responsible for historic California wildfires

Wildfires

VACAVILLE, Calif. (KRON) – A local expert says climate change is potentially responsible for wildfires we’ve seen over the past several decades but also human behavior.

Climate change is a factor,  warmer, dryer land, and long term suppression allowed fuels to build up but experts say people need to be more informed.

“So many of these are ignited by people and kind of by mistake a lot of times you know it does seem like one of the mitigating factors has to be better education just better kind of behavior,” Patrick T. Brown, PhD/Assistant Professor, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San Jose State University, said. 

The El Dorado Fire burning at least 13,000 acres in the San Bernardino National Forest is one example of a human-caused wildfire ignited after a mishap with a smoke-generating device at a gender reveal party during scorching hot temperatures, according to Cal Fire.

California is just getting into peak season already burning close to 2.3 million acres – a new record.

KRON4 spoke to Patrick Brown, a meteorology and climate science professor at San Jose State University.

“The modeling that’s been done in this is suggested that climate change influence has been potentially responsible as large as half of the increase in area burned that we’ve seen over the past several decades,” Brown said. 

Professor Brown says another factor is more people moving to the state in the wildland interface areas historically prone to wildfires.

Firefighters and locals say the CZU Complex Fire in the Santa Cruz mountains was the most destructive they’ve seen in at least a decade.

The complex fires in the Bay Area caused by lightning in mid-August mixed with the hot dry windy conditions grew significantly in size taking the top four largest complex fires in California history.

All are almost fully contained but fire season usually begins in October.

Experts project it will only get worse over the next decades but Professor Brown had this suggestion about what needs to be done now.

“If we’re worried about fires here in California, it has to be more kind of a land management and you know dealing with the ignitions of people,” Brown said. 

Governor Gavin Newsom addressing the need to speed up environmental goals Friday after touring the devastation in Butte County, where the North Complex Fire is threatening the burn scars of the deadly Camp Fire of 2018.

“This is a climate damn emergency. This is real,” Newsom said. 

Scientists are trying to figure out how much area was burned before fires were suppressed intentionally but these recent complex fires started fast and difficult to contain because of the fuel built up over the years.

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