Camp Fire, one of three recent wildfires in California, resulted in near total destruction of the town of Paradise with large loss of life. Over the last two decades increased wildfire activity in California has led to greater damage to property, increase in the loss of life, and sky-rocketing costs of forest management.
President Trump tweeted that these fires were caused by gross mismanagement by the State of California. Acclimatise, a UK Consulting firm, rejects this allegation. It notes that “aggressive wildfire suppression is one of the major factors that drive the increased extent, intensity and damage associated with the small number of large wildfires that have occurred.
Why? Suppressing/extinguishing a wildfire preserves forest areas threatened thereby but these areas may be the fuel source for a future wildfire.
Two years ago, a spring wildfire after a dry winter threatened the Alberta community of Fort McMurray. 4RG noted that one lesson learned was that future fire damage could be minimized by a required separation of rural communities from forested areas in which they are located. The problem is that many older communities were built so that their inhabitants would enjoy the immediate presence of trees to give the community both a forest and urban ambience.
Another problem: California is now hotter than before, the state is experiencing drought conditions, but when rain or snow comes the precipitation is erratic, the Santa Anna on shore winds that fan the flames have been heavier. These climatic phenomena – which are undoubtedly a consequence of climate change – greatly increase the ultimate damage.
The Acclimatise commentary concludes:
“Currently, no society is sustainably co-existing with wildfire. Globally, the situation will worsen under a rapidly-warming climate with ballooning firefighting costs, and huge loss of life and destruction of property. This is the bitter lesson of the Californian fires.”
(For pictures of the fire in progress and the consequent destruction of most of the buildings in Paradise, follow this link.