The west is on fire. The Carr fire outside Redding, California, has scorched nearly 100,000 acres of land and destroyed over 1,000 homes. The Ferguson fire near Yosemite has burned over 40,000 acres and killed one firefighter, and there are over a dozen other major wildfires currently ravaging California, where six of the most destructive wildfires in state history have occurred in just the past 10 months. And California isn't alone: There are nearly a hundred major wildfires burning in the western U.S. and Canada right now. Puget Sound has, blissfully, been spared thus far, but this week, Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency proclamation in anticipation of the fires that could spark any moment now, as the state experiences abnormally hot, dry conditions.
"Catastrophic fires are burning up and down the West Coast, putting a strain on our firefighting resources," Inslee said in a statement. "This proclamation ensures resources are ready to go at a moment’s notice to help protect our communities from another unprecedented fire season."
Wildfires are getting bigger, stronger, and more frequent. There are multiple reasons for this, including a century of fire suppression and an increase in development near wildland areas, but one of the major causes of increased fires is climate change. Climate change increases temperatures and drought, both of which aren't super great if you're not in favor of being burned alive in your sleep. Ironically and unsurprisingly, however, Congressman Doug LaMalfa, who represents Redding, is a climate change denier.
“I’m not going to quibble here today about whether it’s man, or sunspot activity, or magma causing ice shelves to melt,” LaMalfa told The Guardian.
About this, Redding is completely fucking wrong. There is no compelling evidence that sunspot or magma is causing climate change and a huge amount of evidence that burning fossil fuels is doing it, but LaMalfa—a man who also happens to be one of the most anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant, anti-weed, anti-fun, and pro-gun reps in Congress—is pretty much in line with his constituents, at least when it comes to climate change. In a 2016 poll, only 35 percent of Redding residents said they believed that global warming would personally harm them, according to The Guardian, which is five percentage points lower than the national average and 12 points less than the average California resident. Perhaps losing their homes will change their opinion.