Accidental arson sparks new wildfires in California

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Erwan Pal

The fires across California paint an ominous orange sky, casting a smokey shadow over the Bay Area.

California’s shocking year of wildfires is the worst in state history; 3,154,107 acres of land have been scorched across the state this year, with more expected to burn.

Currently, over 7,000 fires are burning throughout the state, one of which was sparked by a gender reveal party. 

Jenna Karvunidis, a blogger for the High Gloss And Sauce, is largely accredited for creating the gender reveal party trend. She took to Facebook to talk about it in light of recent events. 

“Stop having these stupid parties. For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s [gender]. No one cares but you,” Karvunidis said.

This gender reveal party isn’t the first to start a fire. In 2018, a gender reveal party in Arizona backfired, sparking a wildfire that burned nearly 47,000 acres, causing more than $8 million in damage. 

The accidental-arsonist received five years on probation and had to pay $8,188,069 in restitution, starting with an initial $100,000 and monthly payments after.  

The El Dorado Fire, the most recent gender reveal party fire, is estimated at 18,092 acres with 60% containment

Fires in California by Erwan Pal

“I think this is a lesson for people that want to do a gender reveal party. We saw what happened in 2018 in Arizona, and now it has happened again. If you want to have a party, you can cut a cake or pop a balloon. You don’t need to shoot a target or use a smoke-generating pyrotechnic device to reveal the gender of your baby,” said Haleigh Brosnan, a senior at Henry M Gunn High School. 

Fire officials say “Igniting the land,” and arson are at least two laws violated, as it’s yet to be determined whether they are filed as misdemeanors or felonies. And as the investigation continues, the fire is just one of many burning throughout California.

“Fire season is getting worse as the years are progressing. The smoke to me is now normal as it occurs for weeks. I think because this year and how bad it is, it shows the true effect of climate change and rising temperatures,” said Teasha Zhou, a junior at Carlmont. 

In early September, an intense heatwave broke temperature records in several locations in Southern California, according to Nasa Earth Observatory

In August, Death Valley reached 130 degrees Fahrenheit—possibly the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth. The immense heat waves helped fuel the wildfires and start new ones. 

“This is truly the bellwether for climate change on the West Coast, and this is a wake-up call for all of us that we have got to do everything in our power to tackle climate change,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. 

The fires in Oregon have consumed more than 1 million acres along with the record-setting 3.1 million acres burned in California, more than 600,000 acres burned in Washington State, according to the New York Times

Emergency Fund Fire Suppression Expenditures / California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection / Public Domain

“The immense heat we experienced shows how climate change is affecting us. The fires, not only in California but also in Oregon, show the true effects. Until we get proper restrictions on how to cut down greenhouse gases, fire season will keep getting worse,” said Nicholas Voong, a junior at Carlmont. 

West Coast governors and state lawmakers pushed back against President Donald Trump’s dismissal of the wildfires. He had blamed the fires on poor leadership and the mismanagement of forest despite evidence of climate change inciting many fires.

As wildfires continue to rage, putting them out is an enormous and expensive task. According to CalFire, $91 million is going to the suppression of wildfires. The number is said to increase as more fires scorch the West Coast.

“The fires are horrible for the people, the environment, and the government. People are struggling to breathe, the environment is getting worse as ash covers the sky, and the government is falling into debt as they have to provide funding for the suppression of these wildfires,” Brosnan said. 

To support the wildfires, you can donate to the California Fire FoundationCalifornia Community FoundationDirect Relief, and the American Red Cross

“I think everyone should donate, even if it isn’t a lot. Anything can help the firefighters and aid relief efforts. It is essential to show how the community appreciates the hard work the firefighters are doing and help them by donating,” Zhou said. 

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