Fires have been raging up and down the west coast, and with it quite a few assumptions about why more fires are happening. Some of the explanations thrown out into the world include climate change, arsonists, including arsonist from extremist groups, and lack of good forest management.
With this glut of information available, it can be a little hard to tell what is fact and what is fiction. To help out, Rinexii took a look at all the possible explanations, and have linked available information from experts to help sort it all out.
Here’s what we currently know about the west coast wildfires, from experts who are the most likely to know.
No, Antifa Did Not Set Oregon Fires
Oregon Officials ask that you avoid spreading these rumors because it is making the investigation into what started the fires that much harder.
Yes, Arson is suspected in specific fires
There are currently over 40 large wildfires burning the west coast. According to CNN, in Washington alone more acreage has burned than in the last 12 fire seasons combined. That’s a lot of fire.
Many of these large fires are smaller fires that combined, and there could well be 40 different reasons why they started. While arson obviously didn’t start all 40 of these current fires, it’s suspected in several fires.
According to KTVZ news, a Mapleton man was arrested in connection with one of the fires. A Puyallup man in Washington was also arrested when caught on a freeway cam setting fires. In California, the Big Sur fire is suspected to be set by a man from Fresno.
Yes, some fires are sparked by human negligence
Many of these fires are also being sparked by human negligence. Most famously, a botched gender reveal firework sparked a 7,500+ wildfire. Camp fires, tossed cigarette butts, and other forms of negligence haven’t specifically been mentioned this year, but are very common sources of wildfires.
Kim Bernheisal, a Cal Fire spokesman, specifically named cigarette butts as a common wildfire source in an article published in The Mercury News.
Yes, some fires are sparked by downed powerlines
Yes, forest management is an issue
On the BBC’s “Reality Check,” they invited wildfire experts from University of California and Swansea University to share their opinion. They both cited the number of dead trees left standing on federal lands, as well as fewer controlled burns, as part of the problem.
Yes, climate change is making wildfires more extreme
Climate change does not spark fires, but there is significant evidence that a warming climate plays a role in the severity and frequency of fires. A 2020 study found that climate change is increasing the length of the fire season in Washington state, and warmer, drier conditions are also making wildfires more likely.
This is backed up by two studies in California, available here and here. Essentially, climate change is causing extreme droughts, causing the climate to be better for insects and diseases that kill trees.
Climate change is a serious problem that is certainly affecting the wildfires, but it’s also just one piece in a puzzle shaped like human neglect. In order to see fire season on the west coast return to normal, we will need to work on all of these different problems for a final solution.