California Wildfires: How Did These Fires Become So Deadly?

California Wildfires: How Did These Fires Become So Deadly?

40 killed and hundreds more missing.

Firefighters are continuing to fight the fast-spreading flames in California while coping with the 220,000 acres that have already been scorched. As of now, at least 40 people have been reported dead and over 300 are still missing due to the massive fires that are taking over California. As more than 20,000 people evacuate and over 3,500 structures get destroyed, we can help but wonder: how did this happen?

Strong Winds:

The first suspected cause for this devastation is the strong wind. The region experienced powerful wind gusts of 50mph, which made it easier for the blaze to spread. Hurricane-force wind gusts of 79 mph were reported in Sonoma County, sending the deadly flames across the county.


The second suspected cause for this devastation is timing. The fires crept up on locals in the middle of the night, when most were asleep. A brief timeline of the fire suggests the three largest fires started between 9 and 11 p.m. Sunday, according to Cal. Fire. This was around the time most residents were settling down for bed, causing some to not evacuate in time.


The third suspected cause for this devastation is dried vegetation. Officials suspect dried vegetation is fueling the flames. According to Cal. Fire, the accumulated dead vegetation increased the likelihood of a wildfire this strong. The fires torched 20,000 acres in about 12 hours on last Monday alone, and the dry vegetation was a key component.

Dry Conditions:

The fourth and final suspected cause of devastation is the dry conditions. Although October has been experiencing rain in Northern California, it is seasonally when the area experiences more of its wildfires. Since the fires have started, they have been thriving on low humidity and dry conditions.

Authorities are now reportedly urging Napa residents to pack "ready-to-go bags" with documents and medication in case they need to evacuate quickly. More than 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate in cities across Northern California. As destruction spreads, New York native and recent San Francisco local Danielle Kerendian shared her experience with the fires.

“I woke up Monday morning with a horrible sore throat, stuffy nose, and sinus pressure. I attributed it to being a little under the weather but as soon as I walked out my door I knew something wasn’t right. The air was filled with smoke and I felt like I was at a campfire. I looked at the news and realized what was happening-- massive forest fires throughout Northern California. People were dying and over 1,500 buildings were burned down. Several of my friend’s families had to evacuate their homes, leaving pets and important belongings behind. By Wednesday it had become national news, even sparking conversation from the President. Being a native New Yorker, it was a scary experience. I’ve been in touch with my dad and he told me to wear a mask so as not to inhale the smoke. My company also sent out a newsletter about the devastation-- making sure employees stay safe and offering volunteering opportunities for those who want to help. People are donating clothes, food, and sleeping blankets to areas most affected. My boyfriend’s friend even assisted with evacuations.”

As of now, schools are canceled for the rest of the week in Napa County and some cancellations of flights due to smoke at San Francisco International Airport.

Cover Image Credit: Danielle Kerendian

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The Two-Party System Is The Best System

In America's unqiue political system and climate, the dominance of two parties is the best way to handle it.

People hate the status-quo and the Establishment, inclduding our political system. Across all sides of the political spectrum in the United States, there are calls to dismantle the dominance of the Democrat and Republican Parties in the political arena. In its place, a system filled with multiple parties representing the vast and diverse views of all Americans. The problem? It’ll only make things worse.

Congress rarely gets a meaningful legislation done. Instead the people we elected to represent our values and interest spend their times bickering amongst themselves over who’s more virtuous and why this or that piece of legislation will lead to the downfall of America. If our two-party system were to break up into numerous factions, the fighting and gridlock will only get worse. Right now, some members of congress are willing to put aside their grievances and support a new bill or law because they might be united to support their party, and for better or worse that bill or law will get passed and Congress is at least doing something to address our problems. If congress was divided into four or five parties, similar to British Parliament or the German Bundestag, there will be no unity. Also, members of congress often struggle to find enough votes for a bill even among their own party; imagine how much harder that situation will be if you add in numerous factions with different interests and goals. If we break up to two-party system, there will be no action from Congress. Our government would become even more gridlocked, divided, and inefficient.

In addition, our two-party system helps drown out the more radical parts of the American political arena. On the left you have the radical social justice warrior whose platform is anti-men, anti-white, anti- veterans, and who riot against free speech or any dissenting opinion. On the right you have the Alt-right, who’s main goal is “make America white again” and end “Jewish control of America” by putting down ethnic and racial minorities of all kinds. Unfortunately, there are enough people who subscribe to these beliefs that, if our two-party system ended, would have a decent chance of getting people elected into local offices and even federal ones. With our current system, the Republican and Democrat parties attract numerous moderate voters who would never vote for those radical candidates. are considered “Big tent parties,” in that they attract numerous variants of conservatism and liberalism.

When it comes to the president, adding more parties to the mix will only result in much more divided, hostile elections. Most election results will consist of the popular vote being very fractured, with the most popular candidate usually receiving at most 40% of the popular vote, resulting with large majorities voting against them. If this is the case, then presidential elections will no longer resemble the will of the people. If the electoral college is to remain in place, it will be very, very difficult for someone to get 270 votes, throwing the election to the House of Representatives, and furthering complicating the process and dividing the nation even more.

The only way for a multi-party system to possibly work in the US could be if it were modelled after the way France selects its president: one election where the two candidates with the most votes then go on to a final vote. However, many of the problems of the multi-party system will still arise, such as the potential rise of extremists, and candidates being allowed to ignore many of the issues of many voters due to the parties not encompassing several viewpoints and ideologies.

The two-party system is flawed of course, and it very well might benefit from having a third, competitive, party, however transitioning into a European electoral system would only worsen the inefficacies and divisiveness that plague our current system. Like all other things about this country, the United States has a political system different from that of other developed nations, and as of right now the two-party system is the best way to handle it.

Cover Image Credit: Youtube

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No, Arming Teachers Is Not The Solution To The Gun Control Problem

In response to the Stoneman Douglas shooting, lawmakers in Florida finally passed a act supporting stricter gun regulations. However, they've gone about it the wrong way.

Almost a month after the mass shooting that killed 17 schoolchildren in Parkland, Florida, lawmakers in Florida pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, honoring the school where the shooting took place. In many ways, this act is an amazing step towards full gun control in the United States. They’ve raised the age required to buy firearms, required more thorough mental health background checks for those buying them, created the Office of Safe Schools within the Department of Education, and banned specific acts pertaining to the sale and use of bump fire stocks (additions to firearms that can make shooting in rapid succession much easier).

However, there’s one important addition to this new act that seems to have taken a step in a completely different direction – and that’s the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which honors the Stoneman Douglas coach that died protecting his students. This program lets each individual school district and their local sheriff’s department decide on whether or not they want to arm teachers. This could potentially have the opposite effect on school safety and could have devastating consequences, furthering the problem.

It’s been proven again and again that the only way to create a safe environment and prevent mass shootings is to create strict gun control laws all over the country, not just in one or two states, and to not introduce more guns into the country. Nations like Japan and Australia are among some of the ones that have the strictest gun control laws, and they are also among the countries that have the lowest rates of mass shootings and gun related deaths.

Introducing guns in classrooms are just going to make things worse. During an emergency, the teacher could be overwhelmed by their students and have the gun taken from them. Or, because of their proximity to students, they could accidentally shoot one of them, instead. Since people would know which teachers are armed and which ones aren’t, perpetrators could use this to their advantage and escalate the situation by taking control of those guns, too. And if the counterargument to this is that the guns would be locked away and protected by a safe or kept somewhere other than the teachers’ classrooms, then how can they even be grabbed in time to act in an emergency situation?

Furthermore, arming teachers is an even bigger threat to minority schoolchildren. Black children already face an extremely disproportionate amount of punishment than white children, and adding guns into the mix is creating more problems. If in the event of an emergency, a white teacher hears gunshots and looks outside of his classroom and sees one of his students, a person of color, running down the hallway with a hand his pocket, what’s to stop the teacher from panicking and shooting his student? Even the student’s hand was only holding his phone so he could text his parents as soon as he reached a safe area to do so? Many people are worried that poorer, more Republican school districts with white teachers and students of color will opt into this program, now creating further danger. Kids who aren’t white are already being taught to run away from police officers because of their unfair treatment to people of color. They shouldn’t have to fear their teachers, the people who are supposed to be nurturing and helping them grow, too.

Instead, schools should up security and make it much harder to enter into the building without an ID. Station police officers who are specially trained for schools. Teach students what to do in an emergency situation. Offer better mental health counseling. The country can do its part by tightening gun regulations, just as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act proposed.

Already, the act is under fire from the National Rifle Association. The NRA is suing because they believe that raising the age limit is a violation of the Constitution, and they will stop at nothing to make the most money and sell the most firearms. However, they had no protest against the possibility of arming teachers. Do we really want to do something that an organization like the NRA supports?

This Wednesday, students all over the United States walked out of their schools to protest the lack of gun control in the United States. Let’s not give them another reason to do so again.

Cover Image Credit: Time Magazine

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