Written By: Hannah Yale
On Saturday, Sept. 5, an expecting couple in Southern California readied the pyrotechnics to reveal to their friends and family the sex of their future child. At approximately 10:23 a.m. the “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” ignited the four-foot-tall grasses at El Dorado Ranch Park about 80 miles east of Los Angeles, according to a statement released by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than a week later, what has been titled the El Dorado fire has burnt over 19,000 acres and is only at 66% containment. As of Thursday, September 17, the El Dorado fire has destroyed four homes and six other structures and damaged two homes and four other structures. Almost 3,500 residents in the surrounding community have been evacuated from their homes and more evacuation orders have been released. Twelve people have sustained fire-related injuries; there have been no deaths.
This is not the first time “Gender reveal parties” have been the cause of wildfires. In 2017, a gender-reveal involving a rifle filled with colored powder and Tannerite, a highly explosive substance, sparked a fire near Green Valley, Arizona. The fire spread to the Colorado National Forest and ultimately consumed over 45,000 acres of land. Humans are responsible for the majority of wildfire ignitions, and according to a study done by the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of the United States of America, human-prompted climate change caused over half of the documented increases in fuel aridity –the drying out of forests and other burnable ecosystems– since the 1970s and doubled the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. Science has incontrovertibly shown that rapid climate change over the past few decades is the cause of larger, more frequently occurring wildfires in the American West.
As more than a dozen fires rage across the West Coast, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) lists several counties in Oregon, Washington, California, and Nevada to have “hazardous air quality” with AQIs between 301 and 500. In the past month, more than 5 million acres total have burned and 33 people have died from fire-related injuries. As wildfire season continues, it is unclear whether these fires will soon be contained or continue to spread.