A new study finds that California forest fire public policies need to change to keep people and property safe.
The state recently experienced the most devastating forest fire season in history. The fires were frequent and harmful.
In 2020 there were 9,639 forest fires and they burned nearly 4.4 million hectares. California’s August Complex Fire burned more than 1 million acres in seven counties and is considered the state’s first “gigafire”.
Thousands of people lost their homes and some lost their lives when forest fires darkened the landscape.
A new study by the non-partisan group Next 10 shows that there are 4.5 million houses at the interface between the wilderness and the city – 1.4 million of these houses are in areas with high fire risk.
This creates a staggering potential for property damage, with an estimated $ 610 billion property at risk.
“We’ve had a dramatic increase in the number of fires,” said Noel Perry, Founder of Next 10.
And the risk increases with temperature.
“California has dried up,” said Perry. “We are currently in a drought. And unfortunately we will remain in this situation for the next few years. “
The report suggests that public authorities manage this risk better.
Perry said some people are moving to more rural areas because homes are cheaper, but if forest fires wipe out those homes, the state’s housing shortage will worsen.
The report suggests that cities pursue climate-friendly strategies such as infill development in urban areas, fewer housing in the zone between cities and the countryside, and a concerted public planning effort to build fireproof communities.
Study co-author Karen Chapple says public policy planning is the key to change.
This applies to both residential construction and reconstruction in rural areas.
“We take the low-hanging fruit and just build it up again,” said Chapple. “There is no thought, there is no preparation.”
Chapple examined three California communities affected by forest fires and examined their rebuilding process. These included Santa Rosa, Ventura, and Paradise – the location of the campfire.
All the lessons offered on rebuilding.
“We already know that $ 1 in mitigation costs can save $ 3 in restoration costs,” said Chapple. “But we are thinking about mitigation in terms of home hardening. With regard to fuel breaks. ”
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