Wildfires

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The Issue 

Recent years have shown that wildfires have increased in frequency and intensity in California. Climate change brings increased temperatures and droughts which exacerbate the risks. These trends coincide with decades of federal and state government suppression of naturally occurring fires that could have cleared out much of the thick flammable brush that makes fires spread so much more quickly today, coupled with excessive human habitation in fire prone areas that only increases sustainment of these polices.

Those who do not lose their lives, homes, and properties to fires, suffer from the smoke-filled  air quality that results, spreading and lingering many miles from the fire sites. Wildfires also threaten the health of California freshwater supplies because the resultant ground erosion leaches toxic chemicals into the watersheds.

How can Californians reduce the number and intensity of wildfires and become more resilient when they occur? Issues surrounding wildfires that Californians are facing include:

  • Wildfire insurance premium increases, or total withdrawals of rage, forcing mortgage holders to purchase costly state-administered plans
  • Loss of offerings of wildfire insurance to property owners
  • Dealing with planned blackouts, such as PG&E's
  • Clearing of brush/forest thinning/controlled burning
  • Improving grassland and forest health
  • More restrictive zoning in suburban-rural boundary areas
  • Encouraging microgrids and home-generated renewable energy (solar, wind)

What We Can Do

  • Education on preparedness, zoning, prevention, and forest/land-use management,
  • Partnering with local agencies or organizations to distribute information and develop events,
  • Lobbying (or developing) legislation at all levels to address various needs related to wildfires.
  • Tracking and monitoring rollout of 2019 legislation on wildfires.

Who’s Working on It 

Local leagues already active in addressing wildfire challenges:

  • Wildfire preparedness/Evacuation response in fire emergencies (Diablo Valley)
  • Proper water and forest management (Humboldt County)
  • Rural fire safety and wildfire prevention (Placer County, South San Mateo County)

LWVC Wildfire Team

Our LWVC ildfire Team has League participants from counties in diverse parts of the state, including Santa Clara, Humboldt, Placer, San Mateo, and Alameda Counties.

In monthly meetings, the members discuss policies and practices such as insurance, electrification, fire-detection and mitigation technologies, resilience-building through fire-resistant property improvements, forest management, and organizing property owners to join together in building resilience in their communities.

The team invites non-League experts on fire issues to join them from time to time to share their work and perspectives, and monitors the status of related state legislation and state-federal coordination of forest management within California.

An overview was recently presented by the Wildfire Team: Climate Wildfire Challenges: An Overview

Resources

U.S. Forest Service

Forest Management

Understanding California Wildfires

Learning to Live with California Wildfires

Link to LA Times Pulitzer Prize winning Work on Wildfires

How California Wildfires Are Changing