- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Weather is one factor causing greater wildfire damage in California, but more critical is the state's exploding population, spawning communities in the once sparsely inhabited ranch and timberland regions long known to burn, reported Scott Smith of Associated Press. The story was picked up by the New York Times, the Orlando Sentinel, the Texarkana Gazette, and other publications.
The Erskine Fire destroyed 285 homes and an AT&T microwave cell hub in a rural-residential neighborhood near Lake Isabella last month. Twelve more homes were damaged. An elderly couple died of smoke inhalation.
Bill Stewart, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and co-director of the Center for Fire Research and Outreach at UC Berkeley said rural areas throughout California, where cattle grazed and loggers harvested trees, have given way to subdivisions of homes in the last 50 years. Residents in these places must be aware of the danger, and not rely on the local fire department to tell them when to clear the grass and trees that could easily spread fire to their homes, he said.
"That's the issue — more people living right next to wildland," Stewart said of the wildfire near Lake Isabella. "If no one lived there, this wouldn't have been a big story."