Above: A screen grab from drone footage uploaded October 11 of fire damage in Santa Rosa, California. Since then most of the numbers of lives and homes lost have about doubled. Los Angeles Times.
(Originally published at 1:48 p.m. MDT October 22, 2017)
Even many people who were not physically affected by the recent disastrous wildfires in Northern California are still stunned by what happened beginning the night of October 8 when very strong winds, hurricane force in some locations, pushed incredibly powerful fires through neighborhood after neighborhood.
The latest preliminary data reveals that four of the fires have found places in the list of 20 most destructive fires in California history when measured by the number of structures destroyed. Those four fires, Tubbs, Nuns, Atlas, and Redwood Valley accounted for the destruction of over 7,700 homes, commercial buildings, sheds, garages, and barns. Two of the three largest wildfires have occurred in the last four years.
Those who lost their possessions and homes are going to be hard pressed to find places to live for the next year or two. The state already has a severe housing shortage.
But what comes next in the big picture? People wring their hands and send thoughts and prayers. Is that enough? Most accidents and disasters provide a teaching moment. Will this one be squandered like so many times before after floods, hurricanes, mass shootings, and wildfires? Mentally disabled people accumulate assault rifles and homes are replaced in flood, fire, and hurricane-prone zones. Rinse and repeat.
The Los Angeles Times has started a series of articles looking back, and forward, at the siege of wildfires. On October 19 Paige St. John wrote about firefighting aircraft, and the October 21 edition had an editorial titled, “California wildfires are only going to get worse. We’re not ready”.
Below is an excerpt from the editorial:
…The state requires that new buildings in zones deemed by the state to be at high risk of fire be made with fire-resistant materials, such as tile roofs. The state and local governments should also consider requiring older homes and buildings in high-risk zones to be retrofitted.
Unfortunately, urban areas often weren’t included by the state in its designated high-risk zones because, well, nobody expected a wildfire to sweep through a city. State officials are now revising the maps, and the fires around Santa Rosa must surely be a wake-up call that suburbia has to be made more fire resistant.
— The Onion (@TheOnion) October 22, 2017