Growing up around fires

I spent the majority of my school years in California, living first in the college town of Davis and then moving to the town of Winters where I lived until after I graduated high school. Fires were just something that happened every year in the summer, and for the most part the reaction was never more than just a passing acknowledgement due to how common they were.

Oh, the median on 505 is on fire? Better take the back road to Vacaville then.

The worst fire that I remember dealing with near where I lived was when some kids went out into one of the fields surrounding the town (the field has been replaced with a school oddly enough) and accidentally lit the dry grasses on fire through either dropping a match or from the ash from their cigarettes. We had neighbors out behind their houses with garden hoses, and you could see the flames from my house. It was honestly very frightening, but the fire was put out and we went back to our lives.

Over the past few years however, the fires have stopped being the, “Meh, it’s a fire” and have reached the point where we are seeing not only towns being wiped off the map but also having to deal with ever dwindling resources to combat the fires. While there were droughts that we went through when I was growing up, including one where the town that was at the bottom of Lake Berryessa came above the water level and we were able to walk essentially at the bottom of the lake, the fires still weren’t nearly as bad as what we’re seeing today. Yes, there were horrific fires over the years, including one that I went through while on a trip down the the Los Angeles area, but never at this frequency nor at this level of intensity.

Even in Oregon we’re dealing with an escalation of fires, to where it is pretty much guaranteed that during the summer southern Oregon will be covered in smoke to the point masks are required.

When I woke up and saw #CaliforniaFire trending in November I became concerned. Fire season was over, and by this point we’d normally be seeing some sort of weather pattern that would allow for the fires to be taken care of quickly. As of the time I’m writing this, the Camp fire has almost completely wiped out the city of Paradise, and the fire spread so quickly that many people couldn’t escape.

Cuts to funding for forestry service, relaxation and even removal of laws to protect and care for forested land, the use of clear cutting and replacing the cut down trees with all the same type of tree, companies not keeping up on equipment in forested areas, lack of funding for fire crews (Oregon has even sent crews to help with the fires), and the refusal to acknowledge climate changes that are causing much longer fire seasons and fewer precipitation days that would refill the watersheds are all adding to the ever increasing problems we are seeing with the fires.

While human carelessness is the main factor in all of this (including the cause of many of the fires) we have to also look at the changes that have been happening from when I was growing up (yeah yeah, 20 years ago and all that) and now. What has changed, what can we do to try to fix the problems that we’re causing?

Will there be anything left for my children to enjoy if we keep at this pace?

How far are we willing to go before we realize that the planet is going to keep doing its thing while we rush to our destruction and the destruction of our planet and that we need to try to put on the brakes?