Along California’s Big Sur coastline, more than 300 residents have been ordered to evacuate because of a deadly, powerful, and steadily growing natural disaster: wildfire.
One evacuee described the California forest fires as “raining fire from the sky” — a terrifying image that could become more common as global warming creates the perfect storm of wildfire conditions.
Why are forest fires a force to be reckoned with — and what do they have to do with global warming?
Forest Fires As Natural Disasters
Horrific destruction from natural disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes leads to dramatic national news coverage every year — but forest fires can also claim dozens of lives and cause widespread damage, even if it it is not on the same scale as other natural disasters.
Just ask the people who were caught up in the Fort McMurray blaze that ripped through Alberta in May — and is still burning in parts of Canada.
As devastating as the fire is, it still doesn’t rank in the 10 worst forest fires of all time, according to death toll. Miraculously, there have been no reported injuries as a result of the Fort McMurray wildfire.
The deadliest ever blaze occurred more than 140 years ago in Wisconsin and Michigan, when the Great Peshtigo Fire killed at least 1,200 people — and some reports claim the death toll may have been twice as high.
Global Warming And Forest Fires
Many forest fires result from unfavorable weather, such as a combination of extreme heat and high winds. But human negligence and malevolence is also a main contributor to forests going ablaze.
What does this have to do with global warming? According to the National Wildlife Federation, global warming has been a major contributing factor to the frequency of large wildfires in the Western United States. Climate change has resulted in longer fire seasons, drier conditions, more fuel for forest fires, and increased lightning strikes. When those factors are combined with human negligence in natural forests and increasing temperatures, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Forests are beautiful natural resources, so we have a moral duty not to interfere with them. The following infographic by Crowes Sawmills highlights the deadliest forest fires in history — and examines the alarming ways each one originated.