My heart breaks for my home state of California. I hope everyone survives the terrible firestorms.
When my parents (now long gone) retired, they moved from Oakland to rural north Marin County; literally the other side of their street was Sonoma County. They wanted to have some of that California lifestyle we hear so much about. My mother could buy fresh lamb from a ranch and a bottle of world-class wine from a winery all in about 30 minutes from her door; dad could go down to Tomales Bay and pick up a bucket of oysters in less than 10 minutes. For me and my sibs to visit them took us through Santa Rosa (and we could pick up some vegetables from the Farmers Market) on the way. We would sit on the deck, have a memorable dinner and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
It didn’t suck is what I am saying.
The drive was more-or-less pleasant, and over the years you could see how these counties had changed from agrarian to suburban.
A decade long drought ensured the wildfire disaster we see now inevitable. The stands of trees that were used as wind breaks from the old ranch property lines were stressed and even though there was a lot of rain last year, they were still dry tinder. The invasive eucalyptus trees even in good years are essentially torches waiting to be lit on fire. The Oakland Hills fire of the early ’90s was a case study of the danger of those trees.
What I’m trying to get at is that there are many factors in a disaster like these fires, and most (but not all) are man made. From climate change (the drought), to the trees, even to the crowded suburban landscape (they are going to find many, many more victims: those cul-de-sac layouts are death traps), all of it seems contributed. I’m not blaming the victims, I’m listing some of the components.
When the rebuilding starts, I hope that there is a real attempt to not make the same mistakes. Fix the zoning laws (get rid of the cul-de-sacs), remove the eucalyptus (ban them, and yes California counties can do that), open up more green space as firebreaks.
Like hurricanes are to Florida, wildfires are to California (literally, there is a wildfire season). We need to be smarter and learn from these moments.