2022 CAMP PENDLETON FIRE UNLIKELY TO BE THE LAST
By Buddy Blouin
As of early- to mid-May in 2022, the Camp Pendleton fire had been contained by firefighters. But before doing so, the flames were able to destroy well over 600 acres of vegetation. California continues to deal with prolonged droughts and increased wildfires, making for the perfect conditions to encourage flames to spread throughout the state. The effects of climate change continue to push officials to reconsider many things, including the location of military installations. Though there are no official plans to move Camp Pendleton, there is one thing that’s for sure: Without positive changes, it’s only a matter of time before the base experiences another wildfire.
Suggested read:Camp Pendleton California: In-Depth Welcome Center
Wildfires and Diminished Air Quality Affect Camp PendletonWildfires are nothing new to Camp Pendleton, but that’s just it; they continue to be a problem. The Golden State has even been preparing for increased wildfire risk and air quality issues for well over a decade, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A continued uptick in wildfires is expected throughout the state for years to come, as climate change continues to increase these chances and is causing the military to take a look across the world at where it keeps its military installations today and in the future. Most recently, the brush fire at Camp Pendleton burned 657 acres of vegetation, but this was not the first time a wildfire affected the region. The Fallbrook fire in 2020 consumed a massive total of 4,200 acres, causing thousands to evacuate the area. The threat of burning was then amplified, as the wind direction would shift to force unfavorable air quality conditions for Camp Pendleton and many others in the area. The Camp Pendleton Fire Department stays busy, and in 2019 alone, there were 101 fires to contend with. There was also a wildfire in 2021 that would claim 1,000 acres of vegetation in its path. Again, Camp Pendleton fires are anything but new; however, such destructive conditions may hamper many of the operations and goals of the military in a variety of ways:
- Marines and their families will face natural disasters anywhere, but the threat of wildfires is a serious one that requires exceptional planning and execution to avoid tragedies.
- Evacuations disrupt military training and take away from goals of combat readiness in the Marine Corps.
- The cost of repairing damages caused by wildfires continues to rise, and adding an increased frequency of wildfires can cause fiscal issues.
- Training exercises face obstacles when air quality is compromised.
The DoD Is Being ProactiveRegardless of how climate change develops, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) continues to assess such risks and is planning for the future. The even better news is that when it comes to fire at Camp Pendleton, the DoD is already seeing some success. Although the Department of Defense Climate Adaptation Plan came out before the latest major wildfire hit Camp Pendleton, here is an important excerpt from the plan that focuses on the military base itself: “The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and San Diego County Sherriff’s Department are integrating in a live rehearsal exercise (May 2021) in preparation for seasonal wildfire threats to the West Coast. The exercise’s purpose is to provide Immediate Response actions according to established procedures during a response request. The exercise will employ Marine aviation to support fire suppression operations in the event of a natural wildfire disaster.” Preparation is key, and combined with the experience that the Camp Pendleton Fire Department gains from helping prevent wildfires across California, it is encouraging to see the focus continue to grow on awareness, preparedness, and prevention when it comes to climate change affecting military institutions.
Camp Pendleton Fire Hazards, a Thing of the FutureThe vegetation fire near the Romeo 3 training area destroyed many acres of Camp Pendleton, but the American military is resilient and will bounce back. Temperatures, however, continue to rise as the summer months are now upon us, and the drought that has crippled many parts of California and the western half of the United States is still a major issue. Rebuilding and prevention efforts are already underway, but the hard truth to acknowledge is that without major changes to prevent further climate change, the Camp Pendleton fire problem will continue to grow this year and beyond.
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