Our Beauty and Wellness Editor Taylor's home was left devastated after fires last year.
The landscape before the fires.
A REV Editor On Living Through The California Fires
Fire is one of the most natural, regenerative processes – but the rise in uncontrollable wild fires we have seen over the past couple of years is anything but ordinary. Our Earth is heating up and these fires are becoming out of control, leaving enormous amounts of devastation for communities, wildlife and our Earth. In 2019, news of fire devastation came a lot closer to home for us at REV, when our Beauty and Wellness Editor, Taylor became victim to the wildfires in California. In this editorial Taylor explains how fires could be affecting each of us individually as well as the planet, and shares how she and her family have begun to recover their land and garden following the devastation, turning them from black to green in just one year.
“These fires aren’t just affecting the people and wildlife of the West Coast, they are affecting all of us.”
Our Earth has burned since the beginning of time.
Fire is one of the most natural, regenerative processes. Our Earth has burned since the beginning of time. But we can’t use that as an excuse for why it is burning now. As our Earth is heating up, fires are becoming out of control.
I won’t ever forget waking up at 2 am to the choking sensation of smoke and looking beyond my house to see a bright red sky beyond the next hill over. My family and I knew from the 70 mph winds that it was heading our way, and we needed to leave as soon as possible. This is an event we have always been ready for and expected we would face at some point as we were living in the hills of Los Angeles. Fire territory.
As we left our home, with tears streaming down our faces, we thought this was it for our home. We passed neighbors’ homes, which were already completely up in flames with only one fire truck trying available trying to fight it. This fire claimed over fifteen homes, including our next-door neighbors’, whose house used to be a daily sight from ours. A year later all of the houses are still sitting burned, in ruins, as a daily reminder of that night. 735 acres burned over the course of nearly a week.
These fires are affecting all of us.
We were lucky – while our entire property was destroyed and our home was damaged, it survived. Not by luck but by the incredible efforts of the 1,000 local firefighters who worked tirelessly to save everything they could against one of the largest fires having been seen at that time. However, this was a small fire compared to what California is going through now. So far, over 3.5 million acres of land in California has been consumed by fire. The air pollution has been so horrific that my family and friends in Los Angeles have hardly been able to be outside or even have windows open.
It isn’t just California that is burning, it is the entire west coast of the USA. With record-breaking temperatures, studies have shown that fires are “significantly more intense.” With a mix of higher temperatures, drought, and vast amounts of dry brush and vegetation, our fire seasons are now even longer [Center for Climate and Energy Solutions]. According to National Geographic, “It takes three components: the right weather and climate conditions, plenty of burnable fuel, and a spark.” [National Geographic]. Over the last few decades, the annual area burned in California increased fivefold. While over 80% of U.S. fires are started by people, the hotter and drier conditions make them harder to contain and put out.
These fires aren’t just affecting the people and wildlife of the West Coast, they are affecting all of us. NASA reported a high amount of high-altitude smoke and aerosols in the air that have been traveling East, through New York and all the way to Northern Europe. “Since aerosols are able to remain suspended in the atmosphere and be carried in prevailing high-altitude wind streams, they can travel great distances away from their source and their effects can linger.” High aerosol levels not only greatly affect our climate but they can damage our bodies, causing breathing, reproductive, and cardiovascular issues. Just because a fire is happening elsewhere, does not mean you’re not being directly affected by it.
A reminder – nature is extremely powerful and regenerative.
I’m sure most of you had the same defeated feeling when looking at the imagery that came out of San Francisco last week. The dark red skies at midday – truly apocalyptic. This is the reality of climate change and this is the reality of the world we are heading into if we do not all take more action to combat this incredible issue we are facing. I urge you to not lose hope, but to challenge yourself to have these conversations with your family, friends, and colleagues. Continue to educate yourself and use your privilege to do what you can to make differences in your own life. Use your rights and VOTE, for leaders and officials who believe in climate protection policies.
A reminder – nature is extremely powerful and regenerative. While our next-door neighbor’s house completely burned down, all of her fruit trees survived and have continued to fruit. It is beautiful to watch nature recover. My family and I have had the pleasure to watch the nature around us recover, change, and blossom. Burnt soil is actually extremely fertile and is fantastic for the absorption and drainage of water. There has long been a tradition of burning farmland to enrich it in nutrients. In the last year, we have brought life back into our property, by planting edible trees, herbs, and vegetables. Even without our intervention, our community has gone from black to green, in only a year.