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Death Toll From Chile Wildfires Surpasses 130 With More Than 300 People Still Missing

Chile is currently in a massive rescue and recovery effort after the nation has been enduring what the United Nations disaster agency is calling the deadliest wildfires on record. The fires have unfortunately claimed over 130 lives with hundreds of others still missing. 

Officials have stated more than 30 bodies have been identified, and the death toll is expected to rise, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. 

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The wildfires have taken over central and northern Chile, and have destroyed thousands of homes, buildings, and neighborhoods which are now covered in ash. 

President Gabriel Boric on Tuesday stated that the wildfires have been the “biggest tragedy” in Chile since the deadly 2010 earthquakes, which had a magnitude of 8.8 that killed hundreds. 

“The inhabitants of Viña del Mar, of Quilpué, of Villa Alemana, have gone through and are experiencing a situation that has been tremendously catastrophic, exceptional, unprecedented and painful.”

President Boric also declared an official state of emergency on Sunday while coastal cities including Viña del Mar and Valparaiso were overtaken by smoke. The fires moved from forested areas to more of the urban landscapes of Chile. 

The president also declared Monday and Tuesday as days of national mourning for the victims of the wildfire as well as the devastated neighborhoods that have been burned down. 

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El Niño, a natural climate fluctuation that has a global heating effect, has been driving the major impacts of the wildfires in Chile. That, combined with the long term effects of global warming, which is fueling more intense and more frequent drought, heat waves, and general natural disasters around the world. 

For the last decade, Chile has been dealing with what’s been called a “mega-drought,” and according to reports it’s been the longest drought in at least 1,000 years, which has only further fueled the recent wildfires.

The nation has also been experiencing extremely high temperatures in combination with the wildfires. Capital of Chile, Santiago, hit 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit at the end of January, which is the third-highest recorded temperature in the nation in more than a century, according to the World Meteorological Agency. 

According to a study published in the journal Nature, a total of 1.7 million hectares have burned in Chile within the last decade due to increased wildfire activity.

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At Least 55 Individuals Dead In Maui Due To Wildfires 

The wildfires in Maui have killed at least 55 people and wiped out one of their most historic towns. Hawaii emergency management records have shown that there was no indication that warning sirens sounded before individuals started running for their lives. 

Residents, instead, received alerts on their phones, TV’s, and radios, however, widespread power outages limited the reach of these warnings. 

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According to reports, the wildfires are Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster since the 1961 tsunami which killed 61 people, and the 1946 tsunami which killed 150 people on the Big Island. These events are what prompted the development of Hawaii’s emergency alert system which includes around 400 sirens throughout the chain of islands. 

Many survivors, however, stated in interviews that they didn’t hear any sirens of warning that would typically give them enough time to prepare and get as far away from danger as possible. 

Search and rescue operations are still currently underway, and Governor Josh Green warned that the death toll is likely to rise. 

At least three wildfires spread in Maui this week due to the dry summer and strong winds brought on by a passing hurricane. 

Lahaina was greatly impacted, and is reported to look like a gray, ash covered area filled with the bones of buildings and torched palm trees and boats. 

“Without a doubt, it feels like a bomb was dropped on Lahaina,” the governor stated. 

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Firefighters were able to create perimeters around more of the Lahaina area and fires as well as another nearby. 

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Adam Weintraub told The Associated Press that “the department’s records don’t show that Maui’s warning sirens were triggered on Tuesday, when the Lahaina fire began. Instead, the county used emergency alerts sent to mobile phones, televisions and radio stations,” Weintraub said.

Maui Fire Department Chief Brad Ventura said “the fire moved so quickly from brush to neighborhoods that it was impossible to get messages to the emergency management agencies responsible for alerts.

What we experienced was such a fast-moving fire through the … initial neighborhood that caught fire they were basically self-evacuating with fairly little notice,” Ventura said.

Bobby Lee, the president of the Hawaii Firefighters Association, stated: Maui’s firefighting efforts may also have been hampered by a small staff. There are a maximum of 65 firefighters working at any given time in Maui County, and they are responsible for fighting fires on three islands — Maui, Molokai and Lanai —” he said.

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More Than 29,000 People Evacuate Alberta Region Of Canada Due To Wildfires 

Officials are stating the Alberta region of Canada is enduring an “unprecedented situation” as more than 29,000 individuals were forced to flee their homes due to the spreading of more than 100 wildfires. 

Within the past 24 hours, 16 new fires have started in Alberta, according to Wildfire Information Unit Lead Christie Tucker. 

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Firefighters around the province are currently battling 108 active wildfires, according to Tucker, 31 of those wildfires were burning “out of control.”

This wildfire activity is quite uncommon for this early summer season, and firefighters aren’t used to seeing such a large mass of land burned. Bone-dry environmental conditions and abnormally hot weather, combined with high winds are said to be the biggest contributor to the “really extreme wildfire activity.” 

This year, so far, wildfires in Alberta have burned a total of 375,000 hectares of land, about 926,000 acres; a majority of which has occurred within the last few days.

Tucker also stated that additional firefighters and resources are currently heading to Alberta from across the country to assist the battle against the wildfires. Scattered showers on Sunday helped calm some of the blazes and tame some of the fires that were in difficult to reach places. 

Firefighters are now hoping that the cooler temperature and higher humidity brought on by the rain will help them as they fight the fires.

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“Up north, it’s still very dry. We’re still seeing winds and we are expecting a continuation of those kinds of conditions that can lead to extreme wildfire behavior,” Tucker said at a news conference. 

“Communities in Alberta have seen some extremely hot temperatures in the past week, with the capital city of Edmonton hitting 31 degrees Celsius, about 88 degrees Fahrenheit, on Wednesday and Thursday – more than 10 degrees above average,” according to the Canada Centre for Climate Services.

“The region has also seen a lack of precipitation which may have contributed to the extreme fire conditions in Alberta, drying out land and making fires more difficult to contain,” CNN Meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

“So far, about 5,000 people have sought refuge at evacuation centers, “Alberta Emergency Management chief Colin Blair said.

Multiple hospitals have been fully evacuated and many roads in north and central Alberta, where a hefty amount of the fires are currently, have been closed.

“We have so many fires, so spread out and it’s because we’ve seen unprecedented conditions this spring. … It’s been an unusual year,” Tucker said.

Wildfires

How Simple Lawnwork And Safety Protocols Can Help To Prevent Wildfires

Although scientists have confirmed that climate change is at play when it comes to the increased risk of wildfires, estimates say that nine out of 10 wildfires are sparked by humans. 

Record breaking temperatures, due to the climate crisis, have caused severe drought conditions in many areas of the world, from North America to Europe. These conditions are optimal for wildfires. As global temperatures increase, wildfires become more frequent and more severe. 

While combating the climate crisis is important to prevent these fires from worsening, there are also ways that you can directly help prevent wildfires according to official sources. 

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The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) advises first and foremost that before you engage with any activities that involve fire or sparks, check local weather and drought conditions. Check especially when it is hot, dry and windy and if the conditions are not right, look to use non-flammable options, or save your activity for another day when conditions are safer.

The department states that “conditions and local restrictions should guide your decision for any fire-related activity such as building a campfire, operating equipment, off-roading on dry grass, or burning debris.”

Human activities that can cause wildfires include but are not limited to smoking, fireworks, campfires, barbeques, accidental ignitions, sparks from equipment and railroads, and obviously, intentional arson.  According to Science Magazine, “human-sparked fires typically spread about 1.83 kilometers per day, more than twice as fast as the 0.83 kilometers per day for lightning-induced burns.”

If you have checked conditions and are proceeding with activities involving fire or sparks, be sure to follow some safety protocols to prevent an accidental fire from occurring. If you are building a campfire, be sure to build it in a flat, open location which is away from flammable materials – such as logs, leaves and so forth. When building the campfire, clear away grass leaves and needles, leaving only the soil to build on.

Only start a bonfire, campfire, and so forth in an appropriate fire pit. Cut wood in short lengths and keep it in the cleared area, before you start the fire. Once you have lit the fire, never leave it unattended and completely extinguish it before you leave.

To completely extinguish the campfire, douse it with one bucket of water, stir it, and then douse it again with another bucket of water. Before you leave the campfire, it should be cold to the touch. 

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If you smoke, do not discard any cigarettes, matches or smoking material on flammable land – this includes park grounds and forests. Do not discard them out of moving vehicles, and ensure cigarettes are completely extinguished before disposing of them. 

National Geographic states that you should follow local ordinances when burning yard waste. “Avoid backyard burning in windy conditions, and keep a shovel, water, and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check. Remove all flammables from the yard when burning.”

When working with camp equipment that requires fuel, take care to store fuel away from appliances, only refuel when the appliance is cool and avoid spilling flammable liquids. Follow the safety procedures when using such equipment. 

For machinery, aim to keep sparks away from dry vegetation. Keep equipment such as chainsaws well maintained. Same goes for vehicles, but additionally, keep them off of dry grass. The DOI says to remember that exhausts can reach temperatures of 1,000+ degrees when off-roading.

If you notice an unattended fire or an out of control fire, call 911, your local fire department, or park services. If you are unsure of the proper protocols for fire safety and preventing fires for any activity, check with your local fire department or official fire prevention resources. 

If you live in an area where wildfires are common, Red Cross has also provided tips on maintaining your home to reduce the chances of a small fire becoming a wildfire, or preventing an unintentional fire from growing. They advise various methods to follow, such as choosing fire-resistant plants, creating empty spaces between shrubs and trees, mowing grassy areas regularly, removing dead and dry plants — along with fallen leaves and pine cones — and pruning trees above the height of shrubs and bushes.

California Wildfires Growing At Rapid Pace, National Forests Close As A Result 

Millions of acres of national forest space in Northern California are being closed due to dangerous conditions created by wildfires that have already destroyed hundreds of homes. The US Forest Service announced this week that it would be closing nine national forests stretching from Lake Tahoe to the Six Rivers National Forest. 

The Eldorado National Forest has already been closed due to the Caldor Fire which greatly damaged over 100 square miles of land. In two days the wildfires in California have grown 10 times their original size. 

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25,000 Californians are currently under evacuation orders due to the fires as well. More than 650 firefighters and 13 helicopters were recently battling a deadly blaze near Lake Tahoe.

“The hope is with the additional resources and personnel on scene, we can really start to build that box around this fire and start the containment,” said Keith Wade of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

“The fire wants us bad because it’s made every attempt it can to get out of that canyon and up this way,” Thurman said. “So they keep beating it down. And it’s just … it’s resilient, it’s stubborn, it won’t go away. That’s all we can do,” said Thurman Conroy and his wife, Michele, who stayed behind to protect their house and their business, Conroy General Store. 

Evacuees from the Caldor fire found refuge in places like the Green Valley Community Church in Placerville, where a multitude of tents and trailers have been set up. Over a dozen fires have been threatening thousands of homes, and the recent heat waves in America have forced small communities to evacuate into safer spaces away from the fire’s path. 

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More than 10,000 firefighters have been deployed throughout the state to minimize the damage. Authorities claim the Dixie Fire, which began on July 13th in the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades area, has spread over 1,060 square miles and has only been 35% contained. 

The fire completely gutted the town of Greenville two weeks ago, destroying over 1,200 buildings, including 649 homes, according to ongoing damage assessments from the state. 

So far no deaths have been reported in these fires but a handful of injuries have come up. One small but destructive fire completely burned through a mobile home park, destroying about 50 homes. 

Climate change in general has made the West coast much warmer and drier within the past couple of decades, which makes it much easier for these fires to start and spread uncontrollably. Scientists claim the weather will only continue to become more destructive as climate change continues to worsen and be ignored by our government. 

The US Forest Service has contacted Canada, Mexico, and Australia for wildfire assistance, however, all of their services are currently being occupied by their own climate disasters and wildfires.

California Wildfire

California Wildfires Update: Hospitals And Hundreds Of Homes Evacuated

Wind-driven fires that have erupted in the Napa Valley have forced hundreds of residents and all patients at St Helena Hospital to evacuate.

House Fire

How To Better Protect Your Home From Wildfires

As we’ve all seen, wildfire season has been devastating within the past year alone. The frequency and severity of these wildfires in the US have grown exponentially to a place we’ve never seen before. According to the US Forest Service’s 2019 Wildfire Risk Analysis, more than 4.5 million homes in the western US are currently at high or extreme risk of wildfire exposure. Now more than ever it’s important for all homeowners to take necessary precautions in protecting their homes as much as possible from the potential threat of wildfires, here are some measures one can take: 

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Clear Your Rook and Deck: Burning embers from smaller fires that float down from the plumes of smoke in the sky are a major threat to homes and other structures that aren’t protected. It only takes one ember to ignite a pile of dead leaves on a roof or deck that can prompt the entire house to then go up in flames. In the warmer wildfire season especially, one should be keeping their deck/porch swept of all dirt and debris as well as their rook. If you live in a wildfire prone area, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends getting asphalt shingles, clay or concrete tiles, metal, and/or slate roofing as all of those are fire resistant. 

Keep Embers Out Of Vents: Open eaves, vents, and other areas of exposure can also be extremely vulnerable to ember exposure, so make sure you have all openings from the outside of your home screened/sealed off. If your home has a pet door make sure it has a proper seal that can keep it closed during fire season/when it’s not in use. 

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Create A Plan For Emergency Responder Access: In case of emergency, you need to ensure that firefighters and other law enforcement employees are able to gain access to your home should you and your loved ones need help. Make sure your street names and numbers are clearly marked and legible from a distance. Make your specific address number prominently known on the outside of your property. If you have a driveway, try to keep it as cleared out and open as possible should a firetruck need access, as well as other areas of access into the home. 

Collaborate With Neighbors: If you’re in a wildfire prone area on the west coast of the US you should be talking to your neighbors about what the plan is should your neighborhood need to evacuate or respond to an emergency situation. There’s a multitude of online resources wildfire-prone communities can access to keep them better prepared for the future. Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) is a company whose main purpose is literally creating guides for communities to keep them prepared. 

Firewise USA is a program run by the NFPA that empowers homeowners and residents all across the country to increase their ignition risks in their homes and communities. Currently the program has over 1,500 active sites in 42 states that they run out of. 

The NFPA also created a prep day to raise community awareness on wildfire risk that they call the Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. This day is full of useful information, techniques, drills, supplies, etc. that can better prepare any homeowner for future wildfires. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of this day’s activities and information workshops aren’t able to occur in person, however, the NFPA created an online toolkit that anyone can access at any time to give themselves a refresher on wildfire prevention.

California Wildfires

Increase In Hospital Visits Resulting From West Coast Wildfires Has Doctors Concerned

The Northern California health system has reported a major surge in cases involving toxic smoke and its alarming health effects.

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Worldwide Animal Population Has Declined Nearly 70% In The Past 50 Years  

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report for 2020, nearly 21,000 monitored populations of mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds – which make up around 4,400 species – have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. Even more staggering, species living in Latin America and the Caribbean have been disproportionately impacted and have declined, on average, by up to 94%. 

The WWF releases this same report every two years to show us how severe climate change is actually impacting the planet and its billions of inhabitants. The report also reveals how these species specific ecosystems have dwindled within past decades, and shows a clear increase in damage that keeps getting progressively worse every year. 

WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts recently made a statement condemning humanity for destroying species populations out of greed and economic gain. He also claims that the US’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic goes to show how irresponsible our world leaders can actually be when it comes to major issues impacting the entire planet. 

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“We cannot shield humanity from the impacts of environmental destruction. It’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people alike.”

The report directly blames humans as the sole reason for this massive decline and “dire state” the planet is now in. Generally speaking, it claims that the exponential growth of “human consumption, population, global trade and urbanization over the last 50 years” it’s what’s led to the unprecedented and monumental decline of natural resources and habitats. 

The destruction of rainforest habitats for farming has been a key factor in the loss of biodiversity and overall population growth for certain species. The amount of land that’s been stripped from natural habitats in Europe, Central Asia, North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean accounts for 80% of total global deforestation. Land loss in those areas has also led to a 70% decrease in terrestrial biodiversity and 50% decrease in freshwater species biodiversity. The systems now implemented in these cleared out plots of land emit 29% of global greenhouse gases as well. 

“Climate change creates an ongoing destructive feedback loop in which the worsening climate leads to the decline in genetic variability, species richness and populations, and that loss of biodiversity adversely affects the climate.”

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The report states that every single part of the ocean is affected by overfishing pollution and littering. Humans depend on certain marine ecosystems for food and other resources, however, the process of acquiring these resources is doing more damage than good. The emphasis on human health and the planet’s health has also never been more connected. 

The Covid-19 pandemic and multiple wildfires, and other natural disasters that seem to be occurring constantly at this point, prove that humans and nature are greatly connected and need one another to survive. Within the past 50 years, the child mortality and poverty rate has decreased while life expectancy has increased, however, the irreversible damage being done to the planet could completely undo that due to a lack of resources and healthy living environments. 

Within the past 80 years, the rate of infectious diseases emerging has increased “dramatically,” and nearly half of the diseases that have surfaced did so as a direct result of land destruction/change brought on by the food industry. One study reported that diseases originating in animals are responsible for 3 million deaths every year; the Covid-19 pandemic being the most severe example of this. 

So what’s the solution? For those of us at home, we can continue to practice being green everyday, however, the real change needs to come from our world leaders and the multiple industries that exist and actively destroy the environment for financial gain. It’s up to us at home to stay educated and informed, and to vote in all elections for candidates who support improving the planet.

Wildfires

NASA Tracking California Wildfires From Space

California is currently enduring one of the worst wildfire seasons in its history. After the devastating fires that caused thousands to evacuate in winter 2019, NASA has decided to use some of its resources to assist the state in tracking the fires in hopes to predict how they’ll move.

The scientists helping with this mission are a part of the agency’s Applied Sciences Disaster Program in the Earth Sciences Division. The division is currently making maps and other data products that can be used by experts to track any active fires and the smoke plumes that they emit. This information is not only extremely useful in tracking current wildfires, but also for identifying areas that may be susceptible to future ones.

David Green, the manager of the Disasters Program at NASA claims that the information will also be used after the fires are put out, to watch out for any environmental hazards that may occur as a direct result of the fires; landslides, mudslides, sinkholes, etc. 

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“When disasters like this occur, we are able to swiftly respond to requests from our partners who need images and mapping data.”

The data is collected from a multitude of satellites that pass over the state. Multiple satellite instruments are used to capture and track different kinds of environments near the wildfires such as desert terrain, bodies of water, forest land, and more. This information is crucial for post-fire hazards as well as tracking how each element of the fire (smoke plumes, flames) is moving. 

The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument is able to view Earth’s surface in visible infrared and thermal-infrared wavelengths. This basically means the satellite is able to detect, capture, and track the smoke, heat, and size of the fires and thus track the way its moving. The ASTER data specifically is helping firefighters on the ground locate the source of these fires so that they can better allocate their resources. 

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Another satellite instrument being used is known as the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR), which captures images that helps scientists better understand how high and far smoke particles from the plumes travel. The data also can identify what type of particles are in the smoke specifically. This information is especially crucial as it informs experts what areas of the country are at risk of poor air quality and visibility. 

Airborne smoke particles can also be extremely harmful to our health, as inhaling massive amounts of plume smoke can increase one’s chance of cardiovascular and respiratory disease. So tracking the smoke specifically is just as important as tracking the fires themselves. NASA is currently working with the California National Guard in sharing this data so they can properly send out their resources to the places that need it most. 

In combination with other scientific instruments on the ground, these multiple satellites can help scientists predict future wildfires by characterizing the ones that have been appearing most often within the past year. By labeling each type of wildfire, scientists are able to understand their long-term effects and how they start in the first place. As of right now data collection and the wildfires are ongoing, if you live in California remain diligent, and listen to your local firefighters when it comes to future procedures.