Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that heat waves and wild fires are becoming the norm. Our environment is changing for the worse. Mother Nature is the boss and she has decided to show her fury. We have no choice but to listen to her.
Globally, extreme temperatures are being observed in increasing frequency, duration and magnitude. Although the effects of heat may be exacerbated in cities due to the urban heat island (UHI) effect, everyone is ultimately affected. Heat waves burden health and emergency services, increase the strain on water and energy, and result in agricultural losses. The gross domestic product (GDP) falls, which means the economy could be in trouble.
In 2003, Europe faced a heat wave that had not been seen since the 1500s. It is estimated that more than 70,000 people died due to the extreme heat that year. Most people did not have air-conditioning, as it is usually unnecessary, and did not know how to take preventative measures during a heat wave. A refrigerated warehouse near Paris was used to store the record high number of bodies, many of which remained undiscovered and decomposing for several weeks, as the heat wave occurred during a period when most people were on vacation, unaware of the condition of their loved ones left behind.
In 2003, 100 degrees F was reached. Wonder what it has been this year? How about 116.6 F? Triple digit temperatures are not a novelty anymore.
This year, roads are under threat of melting, rail lines are in danger of buckling and runways at airports have been forced to shut down. This is no joke. No one is crying wolf. The facts speak for themselves.
“We are living a disaster movie.”
Prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures affects the body’s ability to regulate heat. This can eventually make sweating, the body’s primary cooling mechanism, ineffective. If the body can’t cool itself, vital organs shut down and death ensues.
Tips to Avoid Heat Stroke
Here are a few tips to avoid heat stroke:
- Stay inside, out of the heat
- Wear light, thin clothing that covers your skin so it is not exposed to sun
- Use fans – they consume less energy and cost less to run than air-conditioning. If using AC, keep a steady, comfortable temperature and be reasonable, so the power grid doesn’t go down due to overuse
- Close outside doors and curtains
- Stay hydrated and avoid alcohol, which acts as a diuretic and causes bodies to lose fluids. Avoid caffeine
- Keep your eye on neighbors, friends and family. Those who are particularly vulnerable include children, the elderly, people with asthma and those who are on medication that impacts fluid loss and blood pressure
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of heat stroke include the following:
- Fever of 104 degrees F
- Changes in mental status or behavior (such as confusion, agitation, slurred speech)
- Hot, dry skin or heavy sweating
- Nausea and vomiting
- Flushed skin
- A rapid pulse
- Rapid breathing
Be aware of these signs and seek medical attention if they occur. While waiting for help, take a cool bath or shower, use the garden hose, ice packs or cool wet towels on the neck, armpits and groin … in addition to drinking chilled water.
Relentless heat waves are also causing conditions that are ripe for wild fires.
Raging fires have killed up to 20% of America’s beloved giant sequoias in the past 2 years. Sequoias are the largest tree on earth and can live for 3,000+ years. Recent fires have shown that they are not immortal.
Firefighters have been historically underpaid for their work, which places them at immense personal risk. Their efforts save homes, businesses, critical infrastructure, including water … and lives. It’s hard to believe that in June 2021 President Biden raised the minimum wage for wildland fire fighters to just $15 an hour. The average wildland fire fighter makes about $33,000 per year according to Comparably.
There are 460 million acres of land at moderate to very high risk of fire in the United States this year. The number of acres consumed by fire in 2021 was the highest ever on record.
Have you ever wondered how wild fires are put out? Well, there are 3 ingredients a fire needs to burn: heat, oxygen or fuel. Fire fighters apply water, a fire retardant or put dirt on the fire, thus removing oxygen from the fire. Control lines, either natural (e.g. river) or man made (e.g. ditch), help contain fires … but sometimes fire jumps over them in windy conditions.
Did you know that wild fires travel faster uphill than downhill? Why is that? If a fire is burning on flat terrain, most of the heat is released upward into the atmosphere. If it is burning upward on a slope, there is less dissipation of heat, which causes heat to be concentrated and fire to spread faster. On a downward slope, heat is pushed into the atmosphere, dissipates and becomes less concentrated, and spreads more slowly.
Here's another interesting fact. Gravity determines how a flame burns. Gases in a flame are much hotter and less dense than air, so flames move toward lower pressure. That is why fire typically spreads upward and why flames are always “pointed” at the top.
There is no such thing as a fire season any more. In the U.S. the North-West is no longer the only region where wild fires have become a common occurrence.
As of yesterday, 93 large fires and complexes have burned 3,116,631 acres of land in 15 states. More than 8,200 wildland firefighters and support personnel have been assigned to these incidents across America.
Check out this site to see where wild fires are currently located, to track related air quality and to identify areas at risk of wild fires.
“We had weeks of yellow, heavily polluted air. All outdoor facilities were closed, including my son’s summer camp. Despite staying indoors, we all had raspy voices and breathing trouble in an area where the summer is usually quite short and not particularly hot. It has now become a regular occurrence - the best time of the year must be spent inside. We decided to move.”
(My friend, Anette Bendzko, was a Bellevue, WA, resident)
Have you created fire breaks around your property? Is firewood stacked away from your home? Are you making conscious fireproofing choices when building or renovating? Is your address visible from the road so emergency responders can see it? Do you have a plan for your family and pets to evacuate when needed? Ready.gov and Ready for Wildfire will help you prepare.
And now, for the most important question: how can you make a difference?
“Success is not a big step in the future. Success is a small step taken right now.”
Now take what you’ve learned and play today’s Heat Wave and Wild Fire Apocalypse Quiz of the Day:
1. Download Quizefy app.
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4. Have fun and Strut Your Smart!