Temperature Outside Rises As US Heat Wave Sparks Fires in Maui and Yosemite
Summer of 2023: an unexpected enemy besets the United States–domestic, not foreign. (One could even say it’s airborne.) Metaphors aside, if you’ve been feeling worn down by the temperature outside, you’re not the only one. Just look at the news media, where the US heat wave and resulting wildfires have become a fervent talking point.
So what happened? Why is everyone on TikTok frying eggs on their car hoods, and why is the sky so hazy?
And what about those Yosemite Fires?
We’ll break it all down for you, from the origins of extreme weather to the cascading domino effect of emergencies that they can trigger.
Finally, we'll recommend some practical steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Let’s dive straight in.
Table of Contents
What’s Up with the US Heat Wave?
The Danger of Wildfires
Yosemite National Park Wildfires
The Wildfires in Canada
The Wildfires in Maui, Hawaii
Wait, Where’s the Rain?
What’s the Solution?
Your Best Wildfire Loadout
What’s Up with the US Heat Wave?
(Image courtesy of Philippe de Feluy - PdF via Flickr)
To start, this year has quickly become one of the hottest on record. Surface air temperature, daily global sea surface temperature, and global mean temperature are just a few of the metrics that have been crushed by the alarming rise in mercury.
Now, our first reaction to this news may be to grab an ice-cold Bud Light (or, preferably, anything else) and head down to the local swimming hole. It’s summer after all–it’s always hot… right? It’s time to tan and enjoy the breeze!
Well, if you’re a Florida resident, you may be hard-pressed to seek refuge at the beach.
After all, Floridian oceans recently hit triple digits, making for what could be a brutal and historic hurricane season. Indeed, some journalists referred to the ocean temperatures as “hot tub” levels, prompting a windfall of bathing suit sales (probably).
What’s more, as of August 2023, the Washington Post reports that the Gulf Coast and surrounding states are currently reporting unprecedented temperatures, ranging from 114°F in south Texas, to 107°F Fahrenheit in Nebraska. That means that, in just this portion of the US, a whopping 55 million Americans are subject to excessive heat warnings.
Worryingly, experts say that, over the next five years, we can expect this trend of record-breaking temperatures to become the new normal. Though it’s hardly a secret that the weather has seemed different in the last few years, it might surprise readers to learn that, over the last four decades, extreme weather events have increased five-fold.
But what’s driving these extreme weather events and temperatures? In a nutshell: rising air and ocean temperatures, which combine to alter and disrupt normal weather patterns globally. From floods in Europe to the US heat wave, weather abnormalities can be found around the world, driven by changes in the circulation of hot and cold air between the atmosphere and the ocean.
Consequently, we as a species find ourselves on the precipice of a truly despondent reality: being unable to reverse the human impact on the environment. Researchers have even coined a term for this perilous conundrum we find ourselves in: a “doom loop.”
Essentially, a doom loop entails an inescapable descent into uncontrolled degradation: disaster after disaster, crisis after crisis. Governments scrambling to secure funding and resources to fight our impending doom, resulting in an unsustainable amount of spending and spinning wheels.
As any responsible survivalist is well aware, societal and economic collapse can happen quickly and swiftly. Should we find ourselves engulfed in this impending doom loop, vigilance and preparedness should be our first defense.
The Danger of Wildfires
(Image courtesy of The California National Guard via Flickr)
As unsettling as these reports are, there is a far more present and immediate danger we must be aware of than the temperature outside: one that threatens our homes, our families, and our livelihoods.
As our climate continues to spiral out of control, ever closer to plunging our world into a doom loop, so too does a hellscape of violent wildfires. Whether many realize it or not, we are facing an inauspicious line of dominos. Some have fallen–some are yet to fall.
These dominos include:
Temperatures outside rising to record levels. We have already witnessed this in the form of the US heat wave. As the sweltering winds begin to rob the air of moisture, otherwise fertile farmland begins to suffer.
Drought. Indeed, 27% of the lower 48 states are already in drought status. The horrifying effects of this drought–more specifically a metereological drought–cannot be understated. When this happens, a deficiency of rainfall leaves land hopelessly parched, producing a great deal of dry brush and kindling. This is, in addition to crop shortages, caused by hot dry conditions.
Dry lightning, spurred on by dry fuel, low humidity, and high wind, is our final domino. This means that dark clouds coalesce, seemingly from nowhere, and bear down with a vengeance.
As the atmosphere struggles to find a stable equilibrium, the climate changes are wreaking havoc on the frequency and distribution of thunderstorms. One study, for example, concludes there has been a global increase in lightning, with up to 43% directly attributed to changing meteorological conditions.
Indeed, a focused analysis found that 5,254 out of 5,574 wildfires–that’s ninety percent–were preceded by at least one concurrent lightning flash within a short range. As thunderstorms continue to increase, the likelihood of wildfires born from them does as well.
Yosemite National Park Wildfires
(Image courtesy of National Park Service via Associated Press)
Most notably, in the US, Yosemite National Park endured an unfortunate uptick in thunderstorms and associated wildfires.
With over 3.5 million visitors each year, Yosemite National Park is a national landmark and symbol of our country's natural beauty. Unfortunately, however, Yosemite has seen almost as much devastation as it has tourists this year. The main cause of this, of course, has been the Pika Fire, which has gained national attention due to the massive scale of its destruction.
That means that, at present, 650 acres of the US’ most beautiful forests are currently burning in an uncontained manner.
In view of this, it’s worth consulting an old adage (albeit, reversed): “Where there is fire, there is smoke.”
Accordingly, the Pika Fire has produced air quality alerts verging into the “hazardous” category. These unhealthy levels have only recently begun to recede–but not before the National Park Service warned people with chronic lung and heart diseases, the elderly, and children to be wary of visiting the plagued park.
But what are the origins of all of these wildfires?
Well, there are a few different answers.
The Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park in 2014 (Image courtesy of Pbjamesphoto via Wikipedia)
Last year, a seventy-one-year-old man was arrested for allegedly sparking a fire in Yosemite that resulted in the razing of 127 homes. Thousands had to be evacuated, and over 20,000 acres of land were desecrated. While this was an isolated incident, it serves as an excellent reminder to keep a vigilant eye on your local news and revisit your EDC kit.
This year, meanwhile, Yosemite has been afflicted not by arsonists, but by lightning: an increasing threat to American homeowners due to the compounding effect of climate change.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Americans can expect around 1,800 thunderstorms at any given time. When this happens, moisture and rapidly rising air combine to create a volatile and dangerous weather event.
And when we combine frighteningly high temperatures, drought, and the perfect conditions to facilitate one of the most powerful forces on Earth, we begin to see sections of the US like a tinderbox. Within this context, it’s no wonder that lightning strikes were the sole cause of 71% of wildfires over the last three decades.
The US heat wave is not the only example of climate change, however, as the effects of excessive heat warnings have been felt globally. From Europe to North Africa, Italy, Tunisia, and Algeria have had their protected conservation areas ravaged, with 120,000 citizens directly affected by smoke pollution, evacuations, and the fire itself.
In fact, in Europe alone, 135,000 hectares (that’s 333,592 freedom acres) of land has burned.
The people of Rhodes, Greece have had a particularly rough go of it.
Indeed, amid widespread reports of “near-death experiences,” many vacationers and locals have found themselves trapped in precarious situations, unable to leave or find safety. As such, social media has been rife with examples of terrified men and women filming apocalyptic-looking skies: orange-hued and sick with smoke.
While roughly 19,000 people have been evacuated from Rhodes, more than one hundred homes and businesses have been scarred by the flames and fog.
The Wildfires in Canada
Wildfires burning in the Grande Prairie Forest Area in Alberta province, Canada (Image courtesy of Associated Press via Sky News)
Turning our attention back towards our continent, we would be remiss to not mention our neighbors to our north and their fiery woes, which have been even more severe than the Yosemite fires.
For reference, around 50% of Canadian wildfires are typically attributed to lightning. These lightning-induced fires are particularly destructive, too–responsible for the majority (85%) of wildfire damage. Consequently, 14,000 Canadians were displaced in June of 2023 by 510 raging wildfires–with 3,097 total fires this year.
These wildfires have had a profound impact on Americans too, as they have seen the skies of many major US cities–including Chicago, Detroit, and New York City–blanketed by a thick haze, stretching as far as Washington, D.C.
As such, air quality alerts have rang out amongst vast swaths of the US, affecting more than 120 million Americans and more than a dozen states. These air quality alerts are determined by the “Air Quality Index,” or AQI–a quantitative analysis of the amount of pollutants in the air over a span of time.
For the newly acquainted, these indicators are simple enough to understand. Green is good, yellow and orange are worrisome, and red means: “Batten down the hatches, stay inside!” As individual AQIs skyrocketed this summer, many states and municipalities were forced to cancel or reschedule annual events, with some going as far as to suggest restricting time outdoors for vulnerable populations.
Some Americans are taking the wildfires in stride, however.
Just look at Diablo 4’s recent–and infamous–advertisement. “Welcome to Hell, New York,” the billboard reads–with brown smog choking out the iconic New York City skyline behind it. By way of response, bemused Redditors have commented, “Genius marketing to make Earth look and smell like Hell just as the game came out.”
The Wildfires in Maui, Hawaii
Most recently, catastrophic wildfires have wreaked havoc on two Hawaiian islands, claiming the lives of at least fifty-five individuals—with the death toll expected to rise. Regarded as the worst disaster in Hawaii's history, these fires also rank among the top ten deadliest fires globally in the twenty-first century, as reported by the international disaster database EM-DAT.
As with Yosemite National Park and Canada, the convergence of several factors has contributed to the particular ferocity of these fires: first and foremost the US heat wave. However, there have been other unique factors, too, like the passage of a hurricane south of the islands, and the presence of unusually robust trade winds.
All of these factors have combined to produce a "flash drought," wherein extreme heat causes the atmosphere to draw moisture from the ground and plants, rendering them more susceptible to ignition. This phenomenon, tied to climate change, has led to an escalation in the occurrence of flash droughts in recent years, providing a longer window for fires to emerge.
Notably, the wildfires' intensity might be explained by the Foehn effect, a type of wind that traps heat near the ground. This wind prevents flames from rising into the upper atmosphere, causing burning embers to bounce close to the ground.
As such, experts have drawn similarities between these conditions and the circumstances that fueled Australia's Black Summer bushfires, which saw 12.6 million hectares (or over 31 million acres) of Australian land burned. So far, 2,000 hectares (nearly 5,000 acres) have been razed in Hawaii.
As news continues to develop, Americans have been extremely troubled by reports and viral videos of people resorting to escaping into the ocean to evade the flames.
Wait, Where’s the Rain?
Yosemite National Park’s 2014 fire (Image courtesy of Phil_kn8 via Flickr)
Amid all this catastrophe, one may well wonder: Does Mother Nature really have no remedy for these excessive heat warnings? A little bit of moisture, perhaps?
In the past, rain has been a gift from the gods when it comes to quelling wildfires, since wet soil and vegetation naturally won’t burn. Indeed, even humidity can add a buffer to an extent.
However, as previously mentioned, the wildfires we are observing are the direct result of climate change. And this includes collapse of the gulf stream.
That's right, the gulf stream–of Weather Channel fame.
Perhaps some will rejoice in its death, like those whose weddings or first dates were muddled by pesky precipitation.
Spoiled plans aside, however, this once-omnipotent force of nature–notably responsible for the regulation and production of rain–is dying. It’s not dying with grace or poise, either–it may be completely gone by 2025.
That means that as the threat of wildfires looms large in the United States, there will be no deux ex machina in the form of rain to deliver us from the inferno.
What’s the Solution?
(Image courtesy of KRON News via Flickr)
So what, dear reader, must we do to protect ourselves and our property? Our families? Children? Pets? How do we face this daunting threat with poise and composure?
What, in short, can we do to contend with the rising temperature outside?
Well, first we must understand what the threat is.
Smoke inhalation, in the first instance, is an obvious detriment to anyone’s health. That means that when fine particulate matter enters the air, our lungs receive it. In particular, the small air sacs called alveoli are damaged. (Note that while the linked article deals with cigarette smoke, the smoke from wildfires is no less dangerous.)
Due to their delicacy, fine particulate matter can clog and damage alveoli, potentially causing chronic illness. This includes cancer, pneumonia (fluid in the lungs), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Acute injuries–such as coughing, wheezing, thermal burns to the lungs, and lesions in your sinuses–are possible, too. These symptoms are, at minimum, highly uncomfortable. At worst, they can stop you dead in your tracks when fleeing to safety.
Another worthy consideration when it comes to evaluating the threat of wildfires is the protection of your property.
It is true, after all, that at this very moment, 4.5 million US homes are in the line of fire. (Pardon the pun.) For this reason, wildfires, drought, and heatwaves are responsible for well over 20 billion dollars in economic losses, and another 8 billion dollars in insurance claims. Now, that’s a lot of cheddar–but don’t make it your cheddar.
In view of all these factors, suppression is the name of the game. Strategies like controlled burns, prescribed lines and barriers, and tactical construction are the most basic moves. Moving flammable objects and materials away from your home and accompanying structures, too, is a must.
You may, for example, have forgotten about the bales of hay leaning against the side of your shed, or the garbage bags of grass drying in your trailer. But as any survivalist will tell you, “Focus on the details, details, details.”
(Image courtesy of Simon Lea via Flickr)
That means that if you’re anticipating a fire, or live in an area prone to contributing factors, it would behoove you to do a sweep of your property sooner rather than later.
If you own a large swath of property and utilize heavy equipment, you may, for example, consider churching up your property lines. As seen on YouTube, farming or landscaping equipment can be used to create prescribed lines and barriers on your property. This, notably, can deny wildfires the chance to harm your family and valuables. So use deep trenches and remember that, if possible, natural water features are preferable.
Of course, anyone defending their family and home is likely to want to stand their ground and draw their line in the sand. But what if that’s not enough? What if you’ve prepared ahead, read all the books, cleared all the land, and spent countless hours mastering your plan, only to realize that bugging out is the only option?
In that case, there are a few products you’ll need to get yourself and yours out alive and healthy.
Your Best Wildfire Loadout
If you’ve ever served in the Air Force, or even taken a commercial flight, then you’ve heard these words: “Put your mask on first!”
Indeed, whether you’re in the air or on the ground, it is paramount to maintain your oxygen supply. That’s why, in the first place, you should grab a MIRA Safety CM-6M Tactical Gas Mask for every member of the family. Employed by militaries and government agencies far and wide, the CM-6M boasts an impressive full-face panoramic lens and integrated hydration tube.
Remember: if you find yourself battling an encroaching wildfire like that of Yosemite, your absolute last worry should be your vision being obfuscated. Thankfully, the CM-6M’s special hypoallergenic coating means that the inside visor won’t get foggy when things are feeling froggy–ensuring that you’ll be unimpeded in your expedited search for your family and supplies.
Other notable features include an integrated speech diaphragm that allows your calls to action to be heard clearly, as well as a six-point rubber harness to keep your mask securely affixed–even when things get hot.
Of course, no mask is complete without a top-tier filter. Since our new VK-530 filter holds a five-year shelf life, it’ll remain ready to go, no matter when disaster strikes.
Notably, this lightweight level-two filter can transform your gas mask or full-face respirator–including the CM-6M–into a practical, reusable smoke hood during wildfire season.
Providing the maximum P3 protection against inhaled particles, it affords up to thirty minutes of protection from inhaled smoke and carbon monoxide–making it a must-have for any fire-related emergency.
But what about any littles in the family?
Along with diligent planning, education, and exercises, your child’s best chance at safety is the CM-3M Child Escape Respirator. Rated for infants and young children, this respirator is made with comfort and usability.
Plus, the CM-3M provides safe and painless drinking for your young ones via its integrated hydration tube. This could prove life-saving during an emergency, since staying hydrated is imperative to survival during wildfires. Excessive heat warnings, too, carry with them a high risk of dehydration.
Note that the complete system includes an expandable mask, a carrying apparatus, and an NBC filter. In addition, the included blower motor allows for pressurized breathing to compensate for smaller lungs, as well as provide a barrier to contaminants.
Last but not least, you must make preparations for your animals if you want to guarantee their safety during a wildfire.
In this regard, the MIRA Safety Animal ARK is your best option. This is because the positive pressure ARK provides enough room for all your pet's essentials, as well as a transparent enclosure to monitor their condition. That means it’s suitable for dogs, cats, and even reptiles.
Remember that pets are easily spooked by smoke and fire, as their animal instincts dictate their self-preservation. As such, you’ll want to attend to them as soon as possible during a wildfire.
Thankfully, the ARK allows for quick and secure transport of your animals to your next rally point.
A “firefall” in Yosemite National Park (Image courtesy of Engel Ching via Shuttershock)
“The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”
– General Norman Schwarzkopf
As the temperature outside continues to rise, so must we–to the occasion. That means that with the right materials, the right training, and the right mindset, you can rest assured that you’ll be prepared to face the overwhelming threat of wildfires.
While it may be too late to reverse the damage that we have caused to our world, it is never too late to prepare–fight back. As such, make sure you arm yourself with the highest quality information and equipment you can get your hands on.
That way, when SHTF and your family turns to you to get them out of dodge, you’ll know you’re giving them the best possible chance to make it out alive.