Fighting Fires

June 19, 2024

Written by Riordan Cicciu

We got our first glimpse of it not long after our afternoon siesta. The column had climbed high into the sky and possessed a foreboding orange luminosity. If it wasn’t for the distinct glow, we might have mistaken it for an unusual cloud. Unbeknownst to us, during our afternoon nap, a fire had started in Ventura County roughly 30 miles to our West.

“We can’t be dealing with a fire already.” Exclaimed Michael.

“The wind looks like it’s going to blow it right at us,” I said gesturing my arm to the switch-backing climb to our west, cresting the mountain just below the ominous pillar.

It’s not uncommon for PCT hikers to experience fire closures on the trail. In fact, it’s expected during the dry summer months in the Pacific Northwest. However, dealing with one so early-on is uncommon. We hadn’t even made it to the Sierra yet. After speaking with the local fire department, we decided that we would hike an additional 15 miles into the night to put a bit more distance in-between us and the fire. The next morning, we were informed that some sections of the PCT were being closed to our South due to excess smoke in the area.

According to an NPR article listed last year, the annual effects of climate change have increased the risk of wildland fires in California by roughly 25%. Could climate change be the reason for our early encounter with the fire? It’s hard to say for sure. However, one thing for certain is that California has been becoming increasingly dry since 1895 according to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA). The cause of this can be linked directly to our planet’s warming temperatures. For me, that means longer water carries and drier sections of trail than in years past. For residents of California, as well as the local ecology, there are much more serious concerns.

The Sierra Nevada Alliance has been doing its part since 1993 to protect and preserve the natural resources of the Sierra Nevada (that means water!). One of the many ways in which they make a difference is through their involvement in the 30×30 Movement, where over 100 different community groups have teamed up to help preserve 30% of California’s ecosystems by the year 2030. By promoting a healthy biodiversity in the Sierra Nevada range, the movement will aid tremendously in combatting the climate crisis and maintaining quality of life not just for the flora and fauna, but for millions of the state’s residents as well!

  • To read more about the Sierra Nevada’s involvement in the 30×30 Movement and for ways that you can help contribute, please click here.
  • NPR Article – Climate Change Makes Fires in California More Explosive: Click HERE
  • OEHHA Article – Indicators of Climate Change in California: Click HERE

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