A look into the Appalachian wildfires

The wildfires currently raging across the southern Appalachia have much of the public unnerved and worried for our forests and national parks. I am certainly one of those people as the facts are quite disheartening.

This crisis is extremely difficult to manage due to the drought-like conditions afflicting the southern states. Thus far, we have six states burning and North Carolina is the hardest hit out of all of them. With over 130,000 acres burning, 50,000 of those acres are from WNC. To put the enormity of the collective fires into perspective, 130,000 acres is 9 times the size of Manhattan. For the sports enthusiasts, it is the equivalent to 97,000 footballs fields. Don’t worry about picking your jaw up off the ground; mines still there too.

Big thanks go out to the 5,000+ fire fighters that have shown up to battle these wildfires, working around the clock in extremely dangerous conditions. Another big thanks go out to all the health care providers giving aid to the 200+ peoples that have been hospitalized due to breathing difficulties.

Air quality issues have been set for the Charlotte area with a code red designation as their air quality is comparable to Beijing, China (never a good thing).  On average we breathe in 100 particles per breath on a good day and the Charlotte area is currently breathing in 1000 particles per breath. For frame of reference, Beijing, China’s daily measurements are steady at 1500.

 

When confronted with depressing news, I search fiercely for the silver lining. I know, I know. How can something positive come out of 130,000 acres of beautiful forest land burning? As it turns out, forest fires can be quite healthy, hence why some of you may be familiar with the term “controlled burns” that occur in various national forests and protected lands.

Granted, these fires are not in control but I am choosing to look at the positive outcomes from this misfortune. For instance, the fire clears out dead and decaying plant matter as well as invasive weeds that may be choking out other species. Thinning out the green density allows for more sunlight and rain water to reach the plants which creates a favorable opportunity for new seedlings to sprout and flourish. The burning of the forest also creates ash. Ash restores nutrients to the soil thereby enriching the earth and making it much more fertile for future growth.

There there, did my silver lining make you feel better? No? Honestly, it didn’t make me feel any better either, but hey, at least I tried.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to perform a rain dance!

 

Written by Kate Randall

 

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