With the embers still raining from blackened skies choked by California's massive wildfires, the effort turns to rebuilding Paradise—a town of almost 30,000 that was wiped off the map. But experts warn that with megafires the new normal in a warming global climate, housing in the western United States is going to need a revolutionary rethink along the lines of villages dotting Europe's wooded slopes.
Fire experts say hotter, drier conditions fueled by climate change are undermining efforts to prevent and put out unruly flames and limit destruction. From Redding this summer to the Wine Country before thatand now Paradise, it’s become a grim reality that has left no clear path for gaining the upper hand.
As residents of Paradise vow to rebuild the town, community leaders are hoping to build it safer – less prone to catastrophic damage in future fires like the Camp Fire, and with better evacuation routes.
President Trump took to Twitter to blame bad forest management. Gov. Jerry Brown pointed to climate change. Their arguments about the cause of disastrous wildfires roaring across the state have turned a California catastrophe into the latest political cudgel in the ongoing slugfest between Washington and Sacramento. Both leaders are in a sense promoting their political agendas. In Trump’s case, that is an attack on environmental regulations. In Brown’s, it is a call to arms to slow global warming.
But as is often the case with political rhetoric, reality is far more complicated.
When Greg Bolin arrived in Paradise in 1967, the Sierra Nevada foothill town was too small to require traffic lights. It felt unplanned and slightly spontaneous. Rustic wood-sided cabins sprouted up along winding, often narrow, roads — the kind of place you could live in for decades and still not know all its secrets.
Berkeley Forests Co-Director Bill Stewart discusses the links between land ownership, forest management and fire probability with KTVU's Heather Holmes.
From WNYC Studios in New York City, The Takeaway speaks to Berkeley Forests Co-Director William Stewart about the wildfires ripping through the state.