In case you’re not interested in 2,000 words on the subject, here’s the tl;dr version:
- Climate change has made the weather hotter, which creates lots of dry, brittle undergrowth that makes perfect tinder for wildfires.
- In the past, fires settled down a bit at night when temps went down. Now, thanks to higher nighttime temperatures, they just keep spreading.
- For the past several decades the timber industry has clear-cut California forests and replaced them with dense new plantings. These new “forests” have no natural firebreaks to stop fires from spreading at warp speed.
- The local power company, PG&E, is unusually greedy and has refused to spend the money necessary to clear trees from around its power lines. Every stray spark from a PG&E line is a potential fire starter.
There’s more, including a history of misguided fire suppression policies, but these are the basics. There’s not a lot that can be done about climate change in the short term, but we could certainly stop the clear-cutting; adopt better forest management; and force PG&E to follow the law. That would go a long way toward gradually reducing the fuel load and cutting back on fires started by power lines.