A Changing Western Landscape in the Age of Global Warming
Fire On Every Mountain


The world of ash.


In 2017 the Thomas Fire in Southern California was the largest in California’s history. Those losses, including the devastating Santa Rosa Fire,  took 43 lives and cost 11.8 billion dollars. In 2018  the Carr Fire swept through Redding and burned out the  city. During That same summer, the Mendocino Complex Fire became  the largest fire in California history,  nearly twice size of the Thomas fire. Yet nothing compared to the Camp Fire that decimated Paradise, a  Sierra s foothill town of 27,000  in the north eastern section of the state. The 153,000-acre fire killed 86 people, destroyed over 18,793 structures, including 13,972 residences and  the downtown. Driven by fierce winds, most of the damage took place within the first four hours. The costs are estimated to top2017's 11 billion dollars.  The Thomas Fire a late season fire, in December 2017  burned all the way  from Santa Paula in the east through Ojai to Santa Barbara on the north and Ventura on the south . A few weeks later when torrential rains slammed into the  scorched  Santa Barbara Mountains there was nothing to hold back the water– no way to stop the boulder filled mudslides that washed away homes and  taking 22 lives when a wall of mountain raced to the ocean.


More than a dozen other fires erupted across the state in 2018 , taking lives and destroying or damaging over 19,000 homes. The breadth and scope of these events was massive in scal. Fire in California  alone  destroyed a total area roughly the size of Delaware.


Fire season in California now stretches around  the calendar, a full 365 days. While hurricanes and floods decimated Houston, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands  capturing  the news cycle, because the thousand-year hurricane is now nearly a yearly event and the impacts more severe, hardly anyone noticed the rest of the west, has been going up in flames . In Montana alone more 1,000,000 acres were lost to fire in 2017.


Tick, tick, tick. We are burning up the planet. Heat from fossil fuel lies trapped inside the dome of our atmosphere. Each year, a little hotter, a little drier. Each year the fires a little bigger, the season a little longer—weather patterns around the world a little more extreme.  Tick, tick tick.