Rescue workers battle wildfires in the US

Annual struggle: An average of 1.2 million acres of US woodland burn every year. © Getty

Is climate change to blame? Search and rescue operations are underway to help people affected by huge wildfires in the western states of America. Many say global warming is mainly to blame.

What’s happening

The blazes began in August. Quickly, they spread through forests. Before long, there were fires raging in 10 states.

Thousands of homes have been destroyed. There are over 100,000 evacuees. Around 35 people have died. Many more are missing. Now, experts say the fires could still get worse.

Find out more

Wildfires are common in rural parts of the US at this time of year. It is known as the “fire season” and happens between June and September. Small fires started by accident grow. The dry, windy weather creates ideal conditions for fires to spread.

However, this year’s fires are some of the worst ever recorded. Three of California’s fires are the worst in the state’s history.

Donald Trump says the answer is to manage the forests better: this involves burning dead trees in a controlled way so that when a fire does start, it has less fuel to burn.

But some experts say the blazes are worse this year because of climate change. Droughts and heatwaves have made the landscape even more vulnerable to fire.

So, is climate change to blame?

Some say…

Of course not. Wildfires happen every year in these areas. They are caused by lightning strikes and accidents, like electric wires falling down. Strong, dry winds help the fires to spread. We should accept that these fires will always happen. All we can do is prepare as best we can by managing the forests and having good plans for evacuations.

Others think…

Yes. The fires may be common, but climate change has made them far worse. This summer, California experienced a drought and temperatures reached up to 49 C. This hot, dry weather creates ideal conditions for wildfire. If we do not control global warming, the fires will just get worse.

You Decide

  1. Do we all have a personal responsibility to tackle climate change?

Activities

  1. Draw a picture of a firefighter putting out a huge blaze.

Some People Say...

“I am here to say, our house is on fire... I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire.”

Greta Thunberg, founder of School Strike for Climate

What do you think?

Word Watch

Evacuees
People who have been evacuated – or moved away from their homes to keep them safe.
Wildfires
A fire that takes place in a rural area. It is unplanned and uncontrolled. Many wildfires take weeks to put out.
Windy
In California, autumn wind is known as the “Santa Ana winds”. They are very strong and very dry.
Donald Trump
The current US president.
Manage
To control something. Forest management is a common method of preventing bad wildfires, used all over the world.
Droughts
A drought is a long period of time without any rain.
Heatwaves
A period of unusually hot weather.
Vulnerable
Able to be harmed or injured. It is also used to describe something or somewhere open to attack or danger.

Subjects

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