The Carlton Complex fire in Washington state has been not only the largest fire raging in the Pacific Northwest during a devastating fire season, but also the largest fire in the history of Washington state. The fire is burning over 250,000 acres of Washington, and though it’s now mostly contained, it is responsible for at least one death and the destruction of at least 312 homes, in addition to $50 million in damage.
Climate change is making these kinds of ‘mega-fires” the norm. Fire seasons are lasting 70 days longer than they were 15 years ago, and they’re burning hotter. Barack Obama, in declaring a state of emergency in Washington, made the connection between climate change and the increasing intensity of wildfires, citing climate change as a factor in the increased cost of firefighting in recent years.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee also linked these fires to the threat of climate change and the increasing the danger it poses. “The western United States is facing firestorms in the future which are going to dwarf what we’ve had in the past because the climate is changing, and that’s just a fact,” he said.
This theme is echoed by the Union of Concerned Scientists in their report on the link between larger fires and atmospheric warming. Jason Funk, the Senior Climate Scientist with UCS notes that “the scientific evidence has made it very clear that the changing climate is the dominant driver of changing fire patterns in the United States.”
The national response to these fires has been inspiring. Donations to the Community Foundation of North Central Washington have come in at such a rate that officials have had to ask for the public to stop sending them in. According to the Associated Press, donated goods are filling “three warehouses, two gymnasiums, community distribution centers and several semi-trucks that have not been unloaded.”
These wildfires currently are just the kind of disasters the Climate Relief Fund was designed for. We’re still in beta, so we don't have the capability to respond yet, but the destruction these fires have wrought demonstrate the increasing need for effective local relief and better public awareness that these kinds of disasters are consequences of climate change.
Click Here to donate to the Climate Relief Fund and ensure that we’re able to respond to future climate disasters like the Carlton Complex.