SANTA FE, N.M. — Many of us quickly dismiss wildland fires that burn forest habitats and do little to disrupt human life, but when fires hit like California has experienced lately, our feelings are different. Over 200,000 homes had to be evacuated in southern California due to out-of-control wildfires raging in San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Riverside and Los Angeles counties. This is just after northern California experienced record fires over the past two months, burning homes and vineyards throughout the Napa wine country.
It is impossible to determine at this time how many structures were lost. According to Wells Fargo Securities, insurance settlements could be $130 billion, which will result in higher premium rates. Human lives lost have been few, but the human tragedy is real. Even the loss of pets, homes and a lifetime collection of possessions is unrecoverable.
While drought and winds are major contributors to the California wildfires, local and federal restrictions on clearing brush from natural habitats have provided much of the fuel for this record loss. Unfortunately, this time, the fires destroyed residential and business areas, which will hopefully make environmental groups and authorities re-evaluate the real need to clean up fuel areas before fires do.
California’s Governor Jerry Brown has urged U.S. lawmakers to pay more attention to dealing with natural disasters such as fires, yet his own California Forest Service continues to restrict cleanup of brush and forest areas.