Wild­fires burn in Southern Cal­i­fornia. | Wikinews

Hun­dreds of thou­sands are at risk of loss of their homes, injury, or death with the raging wild­fires in Cal­i­fornia. The amount of wild­fires have increased sig­nif­i­cantly in recent years, and the state gov­ernment of California’s heavy hand is only ampli­fying the problem.

The Cal­i­fornia Federal Emer­gency Man­agement Agency’s insurance policies, which only encourage people to move to dan­gerous areas with little risk of losing money, have not helped to end their problem with wild­fires but instead has made them worse.

CNN reported there were at least 13 wild­fires burning in Cal­i­fornia as of Friday, Nov. 1, after a long season of wild­fires. The majority of wild­fires take place in drier months and after periods of dryness, typ­i­cally ending in early October.

California’s pop­u­lation in 1963 was around 20 million. Today, it’s almost 40 million.

As people and houses replace the natural land where the fires used to plow through, it becomes harder for fire­fighters to implement tech­niques such as fire-burning and back­firing as their spaces are smaller.

Not only were the winds nat­u­rally lower years ago, but Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics Gary Wolfram said that fire­fighters enlisted tech­niques they can’t use today. One of these is back­firing, for example, in which fire­fighters burn the fuel in the wildfire’s path to stop it from spreading.

Another tech­nique they used to contain fires is control-burning, which involves sur­rounding the fire and lighting the brush from the outside so the heat will suck the fire into the center, pre­venting the fire from expanding.

The forests where these fires once burned are now flooded with people, homes, and infra­structure. Fire­fighters can’t light backfire, or use control-burning to stop wild­fires from growing, if there are people in the middle.

Adding to the mag­nitude of the fires is the increased use of wind power. Cal­i­fornia Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emer­gency last week, claiming “his­toric” high winds. When wild­fires meet high winds, the wind carries it higher and further, con­suming more and growing the fire. With con­di­tions like these, these tech­niques are more nec­essary than ever.

Addi­tionally, the focus used to be on stopping fires from growing, but now time is spent spraying houses down to prevent casu­alties. The top pri­ority of saving lives didn’t used to be a concern as there often weren’t people around.

Cal­i­fornia is lighting up while other states are staying cool. The increased pop­u­lation, com­bined with the state’s fire-encour­aging climate, doesn’t make for a safe investment for home­owners. Just as coastal home­owners have to act with caution on how they set up their houses by pro­viding proper pro­tection and buying insurance, Cal­i­for­nians know their risks.

The trouble with thoughtful, cau­tious decision-making comes when the gov­ernment pro­vides insurance for natural disasters.

The gov­ernment elim­i­nates any need for caution when they limit the risk in moving out to areas at-risk for wild­fires, and people become con­fident to move and the pop­u­lation doubles.

Larry Larson, director emeritus of the Asso­ci­ation of State Flood­plain Man­agers, said that people are receiving gen­erous dis­aster relief assis­tance when dev­as­tation occurs. He also said the federal gov­ernment typ­i­cally pays for “about three-quarters of dis­aster assis­tance and over 90% after the most destructive storms,” according to

The state of Cal­i­fornia, instead of encour­aging fewer people to face potential dis­aster by moving to fire-rife areas, is busy replacing all homes suf­fering from the result of their decision.
FEMA is only adding to the wild­fires. By offering extensive reim­bursement, including rebuilding houses lost in the flames, FEMA increases the incentive for home­owners to move to at-risk areas.

The pop­u­lation then goes up, and the cycle continues.

Cal­i­fornia is a beau­tiful state, but their wild­fires are plowing through much of that beauty and, with it, many people’s houses.
Although winds are partly respon­sible, there is nothing we can do to change the natural climate. What we can do is combat the human causes.

If Cal­i­fornia hopes to contain the destruction, FEMA needs to step back to dis­courage people from moving to these dan­gerous loca­tions. Once people make less risky deci­sions, fire­fighters can get back to the tech­niques that once proved effective.

Allison Schuster is a junior studying pol­itics and is the fea­tures editor for The Collegian.