Wildfire, Forest, Canada US heat wave: Wildfire season could be the most destructive yet | DW News
The blazes have been exacerbated by a record smashing heat wave that has killed over 50 people in the state of oregon alone. Scientists are pointing the finger at climate change, fueling, a mega drought that has turned swathes of the u.s into a tinderbox oregon’s bootleg fire is the largest of nearly 60 active wildfires, currently burning across the western united states. The extent of the blaze can be seen best from above. It now covers an area larger than that of new york city, forcing residents in its path to evacuate their homes. This is my first wildfire and i’m gon na tell you. It is scary, it’s enough to make you cry it’s not to make you sick to your stomach because you don’t know if you’re going to be the one that loses your house or you sit there and you watch your neighbor lose their house and there’s nothing. You can do about it. Many have had to take refuge in shelters like this, while the fires have been fanned by an extreme heat wave with temperatures reaching 47 degrees celsius, the heat alone has proven deadly. At least 54 people have died from hot weather in oregon alone. Over the last few weeks, the age range is from 48 to 97, with an average age of 70. So that affirms what we know, which is that older individuals are at higher risk of heat related illness, the majority of them died alone and without air conditioning scientists offer little consolation.
They see a direct link between climate change and heat waves that are fueling. These extreme fires and the fires are also raging in the state of california. For more, i am joined now by isaac sanchez. He is a firefighter and battalion chief at cal fire in sacramento california uh. Thank you so much for joining us. What is the situation like in california right now, well, it’s, very similar to what’s happening across the west, uh, elevated temperatures, uh low humidities and, of course, a receptive fuel bed that that’s ready to burn with with the introduction of the smallest part. So, given that i mean what what sort of challenges are you now facing when trying to extinguish um, you know fires and keep people safe amid this extreme heat, so the primary uh challenge that we face this time of year and we’re facing it sooner uh in The year than we ever have in the past, um is the the the rate at which these fires grow and spread. Uh that can now obviously face uh present challenges not only for the firefighters who are trying to uh to put the fire out in the very in in the first place, but it it’s absolutely affecting the the communities that these fires are burning there uh and, of Course you know causing the evacuations that uh that are clearly challenging our communities talk with us about. I mean, if you could just put this into the broader context for us um.
You know we’ve seen this relatively frequently in the past years. Is it getting worse as the years go on, or is that just perception? Well, it kind of seems like it is getting worse. Uh. You know the the the number of fires that we are responding to is clearly growing. That is being shown and proven uh through the data that we collect and keep track of every single year, but what’s what’s growing also is the size of the fires they’re simply getting bigger than they ever have in the past um most of the 20 biggest fires That we’ve had uh within the state of california, um historically have happened within the last five to ten years and that that is absolutely concerning and a trend that we absolutely would would like to see reversed. Thank you so much isaac sanchez, as we mentioned you’re a firefighter battalion chief at cal fire in sacramento california, for taking the time to tell us uh more about the important work that you’re doing to try and keep people safe out there. So we appreciate it. Thank you, let’s, get more insight. We are joined by carl friedrich schleichner. He is a climate physicist at humboldt university in berlin and um carl friedrich. I mean we’ve just heard there. We spoke to that firefighter there in california. We’Re also, you know not only seeing in the u.s but also canada, russia, spain, extreme heat waves record temperatures in many parts of the world.
You know a lot of people point to climate change. Is this climate change, or is this just weather well it’s, both but it’s? Definitely, climate change. One thing that we know for sure is that climate change is fueling heatwave and making them more severe and that’s exactly what we are seeing and also exactly what we can link with scientific methods to climate change. And we are seeing, in particular in the case of the northwestern heatwave in the u.s and canada, that we are not just loading the dyes and making extreme heat vapes more frequent. We are also seeing unprecedented events that wouldn’t have happened without climate change, so we’re not just throwing more sixes. If you want to say so, climate change is making us throw sevens, and the impacts of this are now being felt all over. North america and part of your job is in fact you know not just to assess what’s happening right now, but also to perhaps project into the future um when it comes to the impact of climate change. What are you expecting now in the coming years, given the current situation, colleagues of mine, just to keep at the example, have done an analysis on the characteristics of this heatwave and why this today is indeed a very rare and extreme event at a warming of two Degrees above pre industrial levels, such an event, could happen every five to ten years so but that’s by mid century in a couple of decades – and i think it’s – illustrating that the climate crisis is not some something that’s happening in the far future it’s something that’s very Much upon us, i’m being based in berlin and instead of saying we are leaving the american sector.
Maybe we should have signposts everywhere that we are leaving the civilization friendly sector with co2 concentrations in the atmosphere being the highest in the last three million years and temperatures, as we recall them, probably the highest in the last 12 000 years. So, in the time when humans started to do agriculture and civilization started to prosper, i’d like to ask you um about the plans on the table to try – and you know – combat climate change. Um get emissions under control. The european union, for example, says that it wants to drastically cut emissions in the next decade. What do you make of that plan? Is it enough it’s urgently needed, but we do know, the plans that we have on the table are insufficient to achieve the one and a half degree limit of the paris agreement, and these impacts remind us that we should cut emissions as soon as possible and as Drastically as possible in order to limit such future impacts. So while we see a lot of promising developments in recent years, also with a change in the global political landscape on climate action and a lot of countries committing themselves to achieve net zero emissions by mid century, much more is required, in particular in the next decade. To slow down climate change and get us on a track towards achieving the paris agreement, carl friedrich schleichner climate physicist joining us from berlin. Thank you so much.