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Populating a wildland urban interface, failing to adapt

On the morning of Thursday, Nov. 8, a wildfire ignited near Pulga. What followed was the burning destruction of the Town of Paradise.

This led to 153,336 acres burned, 13,954 homes and approximately 2,500 other buildings destroyed. Sustained winds of 32 mph and gusts near 50 mph delivered firebrands 6 miles from Pulga to Paradise in about two hours. Spot fires ignited throughout town and burned together.

California Governor Jerry Brown and Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott held a press conference and predicted wildfires of this nature to be California’s future. They stated that global warming leads to dry fuels and strong winds, as a matter of fact.

Pimlott has repeatedly predicted larger fires and no possible solution. Cal Fire is the largest, best funded, fire organization in the world. Its director predicts larger fires. To me, that is predicting Pimlott’s continued failure.

Wind drives wildfires beyond the possibility of control. California’s winds are not caused by global warming, nor are these fire conditions new.

Southern California is besieged by Santa Ana winds every year. Every acre of wildland burns periodically, about every 10 years, in southern California wildlands. There is no control until the winds cease or the fire runs out of fuel. The Santa Ana winds take place during the fall and into the winter. This is the same time that Northern California can expect winds from the north. These winds follow a summer of scorching heat and drying of fuels.

There are also local winds that occur throughout the summer. An example in Northern California is the evening wind that moves downhill in the coast range. The 2018 Carr Fire was impacted by this diurnal activity as was the 2015 Valley Fire that burned Middletown, California.

North wind drove the Oakland Tunnel Fire in 1991. The Berkeley fire destroyed the same area in 1923 under similar wind.

All these fires began in wildlands and moved into populated areas. Global warming is an excuse, not a major factor.

Humans have populated a wildland urban interface and failed to adapt. We want to live in the forest, but not take the responsibility of maintaining necessary fire-safe perimeters, which includes each, and every, structure. Cal Fire has failed to do preventive fire inspections, but let’s blame global warming.

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