Having lived in Southern California for 50 years of my life, 20 years in the high desert, high wind was not uncommon and at times a daily occurrence. Driving into the area, you could feel your car pulling to the one direction or another as you transitioned from a hillside area protecting you from the winds to an open area just from the intensity of high winds. These winds are commonly in excess of 25 mph but, during storms, 50 to 70 mph is not unusual.
Then there is the Santa Ana wind condition. During this condition, strong winds move from the desert to the coastal region and actually blow LA’s smog over the water. These winds can equal, as they are now doing, the intensity those who live in the desert experience on a regular basis.
In 1994 President Clinton, under pressure from environmentalists, implemented a plan to limit logging to protect the endangered Spotted Owl (which made the news when it was found nesting in a Kmart sign). California doubled down on this, leaving forests to deteriorate (rot) naturally. This created a “fuel storage” area in forests ready to explode in fire — and that is how fast these can and do move with the winds.
Then we have fires occurring often in California. Why? Former Governor Jerry Brown rushed the press to blame the fires on, yes, global warming. He noted that “Managing all the forests everywhere we can does not stop climate change” and “those that deny that are definitely contributing to the tragedies we are now witnessing”…
Additionally, there have been an astronomical (approx. 1000%) increase in housing, much built in the formerly beautiful outskirts where they built in amongst the trees and nature’s beauty. Each fire season, we see homes destroyed and we often see one home “saved” because the homeowner broke the law and cleared the area around their home of underbrush and trees.
So why manage forests? In 2005, the Western Governors Association warned that, “Over time the fire-prone forests that were NOT thinned, burn in uncharacteristically destructive wildfires, and the resulting loss of forest carbon is much greater than if the forest had been thinned before the fire moved through.” Add to that less destruction of personal property and loss of life.
While I am officially considered a “global warming denier,” I believe we need to protect our natural environment and the property and lives of Americans. Additionally, the cost of fighting these fires costs us a lot of money that could be used for education and other priorities.
Some of the fires, we see now, were initiated by Pacific Gas and Electric lines. PG&E is a private utility company totally under the thumb of state and county regulators. Their wires, obviously in a condition that for the first time in many decades could no longer withstand the winds, needed upgrading. The sparks combined with wind level higher than typical in this area, dry timber, uncleared dry underbrush, and yes, warm summer temperatures, resulted in this tragedy.
While PG&E became the scapegoat along with global warming, and global warming deniers, the one missing element in the blame game is the political forces that restrict the entire system. A few years ago, PG&E requested permission (from the government regulators) for a $6 billion loan to upgrade its system. They were told the loan would be approved if they would declare bankruptcy. Basically, PG&E was often just a pawn of the politicians, most of whom knew nothing about delivering power safely. Amazing.
So, former Governor Brown has the end-all solution … “we need to shift the weather to where it historically was … 10,000 years ago” I really didn’t know how old he was.
Environmentalists tell us this is what global warming looks like. No. This is what political micro-management looks like. While billions were not afforded to PG&E to fix known infrastructure issues, politicians found billions to spend on subsidizing wind mills and solar panels, and private solar panels on homes and businesses, and to subsidize the purchase of expensive electric vehicles and a failed and useless high-speed rail.
The oddity is government is encouraging people to own electric cars. At the same time, a power company is turning off the very power needed to recharge their cars so they would be able to use them, if needed, to evacuate.