Why California Can’t Chainsaw Its Way Out Of A Raging Inferno
By Peter Aldhous, BuzzFeed News Reporter (Posted on November 20, 2018, at 4:36 p.m. ET)
Some of the news photos from the devastation in Paradise, California, show a surprising scene: Green, living trees stand near homes that have been reduced to ashes.
They reveal that wildfire is a capricious enemy, but also indicate that there’s more to preventing catastrophic loss of lives and property than the prescriptions offered by the president of the United States — whose tweets and public statements suggest that what California needs to do is hoard water, cut down trees to prevent fires spreading, and get busy raking.
While thinning forests might work in some areas, studies indicate that it’s unlikely to be an effective remedy for California or the West as a whole — and it would have done little to curb the state’s most destructive recent fires.
As BuzzFeed News reported in July, California’s escalating problems with destructive wildfires have been driven by a warming, drying climate, and a massive expansion of housing in what experts call the wildland–urban interface. This has not only put people in the line of fire but has also increased the chances of a conflagration — because power lines and other human infrastructure and activity are the main sources of ignition.
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