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Don’t Blame Climate Change For California’s Fires

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Irrational environmentalism caused California’s environmental disaster.Chuck DeVore writes:

Much of California’s southern coast is covered by brush known as chaparral. As the Wikipedia entry on chaparral correctly notes: “In its natural state, chaparral is characterized by infrequent fires, with intervals ranging between 10–15 years and over a hundred years … These plants are highly flammable during the late summer and autumn months when conditions are characteristically hot and dry.” […]

The flammable nature of California’s coastal chaparral brush lands is a well-known threat. California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection even publishes a fire hazard map for Malibu and other areas. […]

But celebrities love their privacy. Dense vegetation shields them from the paparazzi’s prying eyes. Low-hanging branches hugging a house can look charming, but in the chaparral region, they’re also a source of deadly ignition. To mitigate the danger of an intense brushfire in the chaparral, fire authorities must conduct controlled burns and homeowners must take the defensible space clearance seriously. Unfortunately, both requirements are often neglected.

Fire officials do try. When fire authorities announce their intentions to conduct a prescribed burn, many times the burn is thwarted by environmental lawsuits, air quality concerns, or complaints from vocal homeowners. Without a controlled burn, the fuel load rises every day as plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water to flammable cellulose.

Meanwhile, in southern California, even before the tragic Camp Fire wiped out the town of Paradise, some homeowners were finding it hard to get fire insurance. Insured damages in California will likely exceed $15 billion this year. Without fire insurance, a mortgage is impossible to obtain, significantly reducing the value of property in areas near now high-risk forestland.

For many environmentalists, this is not a bug, but a feature of forest management practices that have discouraged timber harvesting in the West. The fire danger has grown as harvests on federal land fell from 10-12 billion board feet per year in the 30 years before 1990 to 2.5 billion feet in 2013.

[Chuck DeVore, “Don’t Blame Climate Change for California’s Fires,” The Federalist, November 21]

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