For the residents of Northern California, forest fires are a common occurrence.
According to CBS News, Northern California’s Camp Fire has left 870 people unaccounted for and 81 dead, as of Wednesday.
After consuming around 150,000 acres, the fire was two-thirds contained as of Sunday night.
Chris Dicus, professor of wild wind management at California Polytechnic State University and a fire behavior expert, has lived in California for 18 years.
He believes the fires have been playing a critical role in the ecosystem of most of the wooded regions in California.
“The devastation that we’re seeing in the forested areas of Northern California have been exacerbated in the last two years because we’ve had a delay on global rainfall,” Dicus said. ”When those hot dry winds come. . . everything is so dry that it just facilitates a very high intensity fire.”
Dicus explained the Northern California Camp Fire may not have started in the forest.
“Home after home after home are burned down to the foundation, but the trees around the homes and the shrubs are not burned at all,” Dicus said. “Which indicates to me that these homes were not burned out by a giant tsunami wave of flames, but were instead ignited via inverse, and then house to house to house spread and help[ed] facilitate the devastation that we saw in Northern California.”
California resident Melanie Stark knows all too well what damage these fires may cause.
“It’s sad to say, but it’s really common for a house to burn down,” Stark said.
Stark has a close friend who just lost her home in the Northern California Camp Fire.
“My old roommate and her fiancé worked on building a house together [in California] and right as they cut the ribbon they got evacuated and their whole entire house got burned down,” Stark said.
Not only is her friend struggling now; Stark once dealt with the same fear in her own neighborhood.
“Over the summer, my family and I got a phone call basically saying not to come home yet because there was a fire that went through my hometown and it burned 36 homes,” Stark said.
The California Camp Fire has affected thousands directly, but it is still impacting more residents indirectly by breathing in the smoke from the fire miles away.
“In California, we’re literally being affected by these fires even hundreds and hundreds of miles way because of the smoke,” Dicus said.
While forest fires may be a problem, Dicus believes California is well equipped to handle them.
“California does more in terms of fire preparation and litigation then any other state in the country,” Dicus said. “Still there are a lot of things we can do to improve the situation here in the coming years.”
As of Wednesday, the Camp Fire of Northern California has spread 153,336 acres and has been 80 percent contained according to California's government page.