Wildfire Season in California Starts Early

B. McPherson

A wildfire outside of Bakersfield California has forced a mandatory evacuation of 500 homes. The fire, dubbed the Shirley Fire, is currently out of control and spreading fast. It currently has consumed 2200 acres on the Alta Sierra Mountains.  Gusty winds on the weekend helped spread the fire.

Currently, over 1000 firefighters are on the job there, helped with planes and helicopters. With only 10% of the fire contained, workers are employing  overlapping duty/shift changes in order to maintain the fight. The firefighting may get more difficult later this week as the weather is expected to trend to hotter and drier. The rugged terrain is hampering the use of heavy ground equipment.

The cost of fighting this fire so far has been pegged at over $4 million. California is facing increasing costs in fighting wild fires. One of the reasons for the increase is the huge efforts to save people’s homes in areas of interface between the wild land and the urban. Where scrub land and forest land may have been allowed to burn in the past, now, with whole neighbourhoods at risk this can no longer be allowed.

In the US, nearly $2 billion annually is spent fighting wildfires, much of it in Montana and California. The Headwaters Economics research group predicts a doubling or tripling of the costs if the urban interface is allowed to spread further. That group calls for financial disincentives to building there.

 By spending large sums every year to protect homes from wildfires, the federal government is subsidizing the true cost of development. Without financial disincentives to building homes on dangerous, fire-prone lands, the problem will get worse. Headwaters Economics

Other factors contribute to the wildfire risks. A higher average temperature, an increasing number of windy days, lower humidity, lightning strikes are a few of the natural factors that contribute to the number and seriousness of wild fires.Those are beyond human control.
USA Today   
Headwaters  Economics  

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