The Golden Gate Bridge, known for its regal red colour, glittering name, and the serene waters of the San Francisco Bay that it lays poised above, seems like an entrance into the pearly gates of heaven. However, when wildfires that have ravaged California since the summer slowly encroached upon the bridge, it seemed like the opposite. Trees against the horizon screamed and crackled, toppling under the voracious flames. Orange fog choked the bridge, seeping into the city and the rest of the West Coast. To the people present and the people across the world that saw the photos, it seemed like a haunting entrance to hell.
2020 has seen some of the worst wildfire seasons for the United States West Coast. Over 3 million acres have burned, embroiling around 15,000 firefighters in efforts to stop the flames. Despite their valiant efforts, the death toll has been grim and towns have been razed by the flames. For West Coast Americans, the combination of a devastating pandemic and fierce wildfires has left many of them desperate and vulnerable. Since the pandemic, the outdoors served as a refuge where they could breathe freely and find entertainment outside of the confines of their homes. Now, the intense smog and smoke choking the air means that if West Coast citizens go outside, they must confront the health risks associated with both the pandemic and the immense health complications brought about by exposure to such pollution. Despite the terrifying effects of the blazes, the origins of many of these fires are quite mundane: gender reveals, sparking utility equipment, car exhaust, or flashes of lightning. There is no evidence of arson. Rather, climate change is the main perpetrator of these fires. Record shattering heat waves and swings between dry weather or heavy rain that nurtures eventual fuel for the fire has made the West Coast especially susceptible to harsh wildfires.
Ultimately, the wildfires that have ravaged the West Coast of the US this year are transforming the scape of the West Coast both physically and emotionally. Fires ruin the air quality, mar the landscape in clouds of orange fog and vicious blasts of flame, and raze urban areas and the countryside, Americans are also experiencing a degradation of their spirits. Thousands of firefighters have worked at exhausting rates to fight the fumes and thousands of others have been forced into their homes, now vulnerable to both fire and a pandemic in a year that seems sent from hell.