Idea for Use in the Classroom

This infographic shows the destruction caused by the 2017 California wildfires. Have students look at the map of California and ask them if they see any patterns in the location of the wildfires. For instance, although the fires were spread throughout the state, the most devastating ones were located near the coast.

Ask students to identify which winds are considered responsible for contributing to the wildfires severity (Santa Ana and Diablo winds). Have students learn more about these winds by reading this article. Have students compare the information from the map in the article to the infographic map of California. Ask students to determine which areas of California were particularly affected by the two winds. Then have students make a claim about these winds based on the evidence they have from the infographic and the article.

Finally, have students work in small groups to write a script for a one-minute news broadcast that describes the damages caused by the wildfires. Instruct students to address the following questions in their broadcast:

  • Between June and December of 2017, how many fires had burned throughout California?
  • How much acreage was burned in the fires?
  • How many homes were lost?
  • How many fatalities were caused by the wildfires?

To add further information to their broadcast, encourage students to compare the amount of carbon dioxide that was emitted by wildfires in “wine country” to the emissions produced by automobiles in the state in a single year. They can also include the role of the Santa Ana and Diablo winds in the 2017 wildfire season. To help students better understand the level of destruction caused by these wildfires, show them pictures (such as these) taken from within the wildfires themselves. Once they have finished gathering their information and preparing their script, allow students to record or present their broadcast in class.


carbon dioxide

greenhouse gas produced by animals during respiration and used by plants during photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of burning fossil fuels.



Diablo winds

strong, dry winds that occur over northern California, east of the Diablo Range.


ecosystem filled with trees and underbrush.

Santa Ana winds

extremely strong, dry winds flowing from the Mojave Desert or Great Basin through Southern California to the Pacific Ocean.


uncontrolled fire that happens in a rural or sparsely populated area.