Several weeks ago, wildfires erupted in Napa Valley Wine Country in Northern California. 44 people died. Nearly 9,000 structures and numerous vineyards were destroyed. Not long after on December 5, fires in Ventura County destroyed nearly 800 homes and buildings. Aerial footage showed devastation, which looked like war zones. Houses burned like tinder. Residents fled with their belongings, pets and horses. Their helplessness drew our sympathies.

TV reporters echoed the same theme: no one can be immune to Mother Nature’s disasters. California weather is rather dry. There was plenty of rain last winter but heat this summer caused abundant vegetation to dry up by fall. Sparks led to major fires as up to 60 miles-per-hour Santa Ana winds made the land vulnerable to sparks, arsonists and terrorists. They wreaked havoc like bomb attacks.

Bottom-line, California is not an ideal place to live. For hundreds of years, thirsty deserts have developed into residential areas, drawing water from Northern California and Nevada. Eventually, you have to pay the price.

Some people prefer living on a flat land and don’t envy people living with views from the mountains. When you live like a hermit in the wild, your daily enjoyment could be gone in an instant by wildfires and end up you could end up homeless. Even though the government and charity groups will take care of you humanely and thoughtfully, you will have a hard time dealing with the year-end holiday season cheers. Our sympathies are with people like these. Shouldn’t the government do something about it?

Among natural forces, wildfires can be as frightening as earthquakes, hurricanes and floods. Tens of thousands of acres of forest are engulfed in flames. The skies become orange. Plumes of smoke can be seen from space. Helicopters and larger planes dropping water and retardants can do only so much and are sometimes useless. Only when the winds die down and the brushes almost wiped out can you contain the fire and let it burn out naturally.

In California, houses are built mainly with wood to deal with earthquakes. The roofs are typically covered with firebricks or chemical synthesis fire-resistant materials. But in a wildfire, embers are blown by strong wind all over the place. Decades-old houses with dried out materials really don’t stand a chance. Some homeowners climb up to the roof spraying water from garden hoses to wet the house. It might be helpful a little bit.

But under strong winds their fate can be predicted.

Overall, the various public agencies can be considered to have responded to the fires responsibly and efficiently. Firefighters assist each other from different jurisdictions. Life takes priority over property. Evacuations are properly handled. Life losses are minimum.

Most homes carry insurance. The insurance companies take the brunt of losses. The problem is, when there are too many wildfires, insurance premiums are increased in proportion to the losses. All homeowners end up sharing the burden and pay more. In the end, everyone pays the price. This is America.

Gov. Brown once again declared a state of emergency in California to make available all resources to aid in disaster relief.

However, year after year the wildfires become bigger and bigger, what’s the root of the problem? Can you blame it on global warming or human over-development? The efforts to increase investment on public firefighting equipment and to develop heavy firefighting tools went nowhere. Government spending is already burdensome. Can there be extra money to spend? There are wildfires every year. You can’t stop them. Can Californians only throw up their hands and take their chances? Looks like it.

California cities often end up on the list of the world’s best cities to live in. Considering the high risks of wildfires and earthquakes in California, it goes to show there is no such a thing as being perfect.

Wildfires, sunshine, beaches and red wines are all Californian “new staples”. Come join our adventures. 

 LA Voice is published in partnership with The World Journal

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