California prepares for an intense fire season as Covid-19 adds complications
By Maanvi Singh
Wildfires are searing through California and states in the US south-west, as the region braces for an intense fire season complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. With 2020 on track to be one of the hottest and driest years on record, the National Interagency Fire Center is warning of a higher potential for fires across much of America’s west and south-west.
“Unfortunately we’re already seeing a bit of a preview of what’s to come,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The coronavirus also threatens to sideline wildland firefighters. They’re exposed to large amounts of smoke that could aggravate their lungs and cause complications if they were to contract the disease. And they normally station at crowded camps for days near major blazes, where they may have few opportunities to wash their hands.
Down the line, climate experts also worry about the snowballing economic effect of a pandemic-induced recession, which could further devastate families affected by fire and cut into state budgets to manage and mitigate the fires intensified by global heating and decades of forest mismanagement.
“Every year now brings us high wildfire risk,” said Swain. “In the future, there doesn’t have to be high wildfire damage, if we invest in the right programs.”