A dog named Rockey stands on the fence in front of the home of Jimmy Clements. They survived the Camp Fire on November 11 in Paradise, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity, the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 105,000 acres, killing 23 people and has destroyed over 6,700 homes and businesses.

A dog named Rockey stands on the fence in front of the home of Jimmy Clements. They survived the Camp Fire on November 11 in Paradise, California. Fueled by high winds and low humidity, the Camp Fire ripped through the town of Paradise charring over 105,000 acres, killing 23 people and has destroyed over 6,700 homes and businesses.

The wildfires in California have matched the deadliest on record.

And the president weighed in on Twitter about the cause of the fire.

That claim is partially false. Vox reports “Trump is right that these fires are exacerbated by humans, though he’s wrong about who or what is to blame: Wildfires are getting worse because of human activity, but not because of California’s forest management.”

Professor Glen McDonald studies the effect of climate change on wildfires. And he had to evacuate his home in California as a result of the danger.

The Daily Beast reports:

MacDonald said the best way to fight wildfires was not blaming management.

“You can look at it in different ways,” he says. “Wildfires are natural here. There are records of early Spanish settlers that used fires for necessary land clearance but times have changed and the ecosystem, and number of people living in California. [But] there are 30 million people here now.”

Things are getting worse.

“If you look at the 20 biggest fires in the state, 15 of those have happened since 2000,” he pointed out. “There are now bigger fires, and more and more record breakers coming in. Fire season is getting longer. We are also seeing record-breaking temperatures. It is getting hotter and hotter. Spring starts earlier. Our fire season now goes into the winter.”

MacDonald’s analysis is that the lack of seasonality on fires can be traced to climate change.

This double whammy of wildfires is especially powerful. High temperatures mean that rain has been a rarity, a phenomenon scientists have referred to as “negative rain,” and what meteorologists say is more extreme than having no rain at all. High winds rushing in from the east haven’t helped already low humidity rates, which have made the air so cracklingly dry that brush has ignited almost immediately.

Could this be a turning point in the national conversation about climate change?

Produced by Avery J.C. Kleinman. Text by Gabrielle Healy.

Guests

  • Sharon McNary Infrastructure Correspondent, Southern California Public Radio; @KPCCSharon

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