There are several wildfires burning across the west coast states.
According to Cal Fire, as of 7:32 a.m. Monday Aug. 16, the Dixie wildfire in California has grown to cover 569,707 acres. It is one of the largest wildfires in the state’s history.
According to an MSN article, “The Dixie Fire burning in Northern California has grown to become to the second-largest wildfire on record in the state. The fire, estimated at more than 463,400 acres, is second only to the  August Fire in terms of acreage burned.”
MSN’s article, published last Tuesday, states that the Dixie fire has burned more than 100,000 fewer acres than where it stands today, meaning it has, on average, consumed more than 15,000 acres a day in the past week. This figure indicates a rate of growth comparable to the entire Oklahoma Christian University campus (200 acres) burning in less than 20 seconds.
The Dixie fire is just one of 97 “large fires” currently burning across the United States, according to fireweatheravalanche.org. These “large fires” have burned more two million acres and make up only 53% of all current fires.
These fires likely occurred in part due to the heat waves that the United States has seen in 2021.
All fires need three conditions to live: fuel, a heat source, and oxygen.
Due to a fire’s need to feed, one effective method of snuffing out a fire is to starve it of fuel via controlled burns in hopes of creating an impassable barrier. Still, winds can whip up embers that will occasionally cross these barriers and, providing a heat source, ignite the other side.
A heat source is the spark that sets the flames in motion. This could be a lightning strike, explosion, a campfire, etc.
“During the dry season, where you have lots of highly flammable plant matter to serve as fuel, oxygen to keep it burning, and high temperatures to help spread the fire, all you need is something to ignite it. In 80% of situations, that’s a negligent or malicious human,” wrote Ethan Siegel in a Forbes article. Siegal has his Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Beyond mere destruction, wildfires create other concerning dangers, namely air quality.
One of the major pollutants considered in the Air Quality Index (AQI) is particle pollution, to which wildfires greatly contribute.
Airnow.gov states, “Think of the AQI as a yardstick that runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern.” A value over 300 is considered hazardous. According to the same website, Westwood, California, currently has an AQI of 936.
Wind currents have carried some of the resulting ash and air pollution across the country, contributing to visibly diminished air quality in states as far as New York. The entire United States is affected when the west coast burns as badly as it does now.