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To live with fire, locals are learning to wield it for good

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The Fire Forward program teaches California residents how to use prescribed burns to prevent future wildfires. Photos: Good Fire Alliance

Sasha Berleman, PhD, grew up in Southern California, and for most of her early life, fire meant ash falling from the sky like snow, or “smoke days” home from school and stuck inside. She was off to college before anyone mentioned the beneficial role of fire in the state’s ecosystems.

“I learned for the first time ever as an adult that fire is necessary in these landscapes, that it has been used by Native peoples for thousands and thousands of years, and that there’s an option for living with fire that doesn’t have to be tragedy,” she tells Future Human. …

Public health advocates express concern that the industrial odorizers could be harmful to human health

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The 1200-acre Inglewood Oil Field located in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles, CA. Photo: Education Images/Getty Images

A decade ago, when it was not uncommon for the breeze through Los Angeles’s University Park neighborhood to carry the scent of natural gas, the residents of the area began falling ill. They complained to Martha Dina Argüello, the executive director of the nonprofit Physicians for Social Responsibility, about nausea and nosebleeds; air that burned the eyes and throat, as if they were cooking with chilies; the smell of gas, rotten eggs, and, curiously, overripe guava. They blamed the nearby AllenCo drill site, a collection of 21 oil wells operating on land leased from the Catholic Archdiocese of L.A.

“As we worked with more communities, we kept hearing the same story,” Argüello tells OneZero. “‘It smells like green apple,’ or, ‘it smells like…

Power outages in the fire-prone state could mean big business for rooftop solar and storage systems

A car drives passed a power station in Mill Valley, California as a statewide blackout continues on October, 10, 2019.
A car drives passed a power station in Mill Valley, California as a statewide blackout continues on October, 10, 2019.
Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty

Last week, large swaths of northern California went dark as the state’s largest utility cut power to hundreds of thousands of its customers. It was Pacific Gas & Electric’s third deliberate outage in two months — part of the company’s efforts to keep its aging transmission lines from sparking blazes when conditions are ripe for wildfires — and the largest blackout to date: An estimated 2.5 million people were affected.

The outages were short-lived, but they certainly won’t be the last. Climate change is making dangerous fire conditions the norm in California, and “de-energizing,” as power outages are referred to, has become a part of every major utility’s fire mitigation plan, called for by California lawmakers after some of the state’s most devastating fires in recent years were linked to malfunctioning PG&E equipment — including 2018’s deadly Camp Fire. …

About

Kate Wheeling

freelance environmental journalist. @katewheeling

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