California wildfires — the solution is up to usBy: Jan Bell
Nearly 50,000 residents of the area around Paradise are rebuilding their lives following the deadliest and most costly fire in California’s history. Eighty-six people died and 18,000 structures were destroyed in a few hours after a fire was reported near PG&E high power lines that morning.
In 2018 California experienced 8,527 fires that burned 1.9 million acres and caused $3.5 billion in damages according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Not just a rural phenomenon, many of these fires occurred in urban areas like Santa Rosa and Malibu.
All of us should oppose politicizing these tragedies and resist those who are using the situation to advance aggressive commercial logging, which will not eliminate our fire risk, particularly in cities or rural non-forest areas like Auburn.
Experts state there are three factors increasing our fire risk in California: 1) increased fuels — brush from early rains and millions of dead trees in our forests from drought and bark beetle infestations; 2) historically high temperatures leading to longer dry spells and stronger Santa Ana winds; and 3) more residential construction in urban-wildland interface areas.
Local, state and federal governments have a big role in the solution. We must fully fund our local
and state fire departments, fund removal of dead trees in our forests, demand federal and state
governments manage forestlands using balanced, responsible practices, and demand utility
companies bury electrical wires or place more sensors to catch fires earlier.
Remember, in the early 20th century entire towns burned before we implemented construction codes that made our buildings safer from fire. Given our current situation, we must support new
construction codes and requirements of new materials and technologies to reduce property fire risks.
Also, the reality is people start 95 percent of fires. Lisa Krieger‘s article “What’s starting all these wildfires?” in the Aug. 12 Mercury News claims, “Historically, the largest number of fires were
caused by equipment, such as gas-powered weed cutters that strike a rock and cause a spark. Ignitions are triggered by generators, lawn mowers, chainsaws, tractors and off-road vehicles without required spark arrestors. That is followed by arson, debris burning, kids playing with fire, smoking, vehicles and power lines.”
If people cause most of our fires, then people can prevent them. Homeowners and landlords can reduce these disastrous losses by:
• Use extreme caution with power equipment — in summer and early fall use it prior to 10 a.m.
• Clear brush and dead trees away from our homes and businesses.
• Form fire wise community groups in our neighborhoods and work with local fire officials who
will assess fire hazards in our neighborhood so we can fix them.
• Provide a source of water near our properties (ponds, pools or water storage tanks)
• Remodel our homes and businesses with fire retardant materials — particularly our roofs,
siding and fences.
Cal Fire’s website gives us great information about how to protect our property so take action now.
Go to fire.ca.gov/fire_prevention/fire_prevention_wildland_homeowners.
California Democrats support strong environmental policies to protect all of us from pollution, fire risk as well as sustain our beautiful natural habitats.
If you want to know more about Democratic policies, join us every month at the General Gomez Arts & Events Center, 808 Lincoln Way, Auburn for our “Topics of Community Interest” speaker series. Our meetings are free and open to the public.
Go to auburndemocrats.com for more event details. Our next meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 6:30 p.m.
Jan Bell is the Auburn Area Democratic Club’s president. Contact Bell at email@example.com and 530-887-1083.