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Wildfires continue to ravage West Coast

By Joe Tomlinson / Sports Editor

Record-breaking wildfires are burning through the West Coast, particularly in California, Oregon and Washington. The fires in the region have already killed at least 35 people, according to AP News, dozens are missing and thousands have been forced to evacuate their homes and businesses.  

Although wildfires pose a yearly challenge on the West Coast, the devastation, destruction and displacement of this fire season is at an unprecedented level. In California, dozens of separate fires have ignited, including an incident where a pyrotechnic at a gender reveal party started a fire just 80 miles outside Los Angeles.  

The flames are encroaching on rural and suburban communities and covering cities with a thick smog. Even in a state accustomed to periodic wildfires, temperatures are higher, fires more widespread and air quality is historically bad, eliciting more concern than usual.  

The wildfires on the West Coast have become so large that many teams of firefighters are struggling to control them. (Photo credit: @ajplus via Twitter)

On Monday Sept. 14, President Donald Trump met with California Gov. Gavin Newsome and other state officials outside Sacramento for a briefing on the wildfires. 

“When trees fall down, after a short period of time, about 18 months, they become really dry,” Trump told reporters when he arrived on the tarmac. “They become really like a matchstick…. and they just explode.”  

When California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot expressed concern over climate change and global warming, Trump stated that the weather “will start getting cooler.” 

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden responded to Trump’s comments, rebuking his anti-science stance on climate change.  

“This is another crisis he won’t take responsibility for,” Biden said in a speech from Delaware. “The West is literally on fire and he blames the people whose homes and communities are burning.”  

If elected, Biden has promised to reverse Trump’s 2017 decision to withdraw from the international Paris climate accord. 

Multiple factors like lengthy drought, triple-digit heat waves and human incompetence have led to unparalleled amounts of environmental damage. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, from Jan. 1 to Sept. 8, 2020, there were 41,051 wildfires compared with 35,386 wildfires in the same period in 2019. Last year, 4.2 million acres were burned. Just nine months into 2020, 4.7 million acres have already been burned.

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