Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Official: California Must Mull Home Ban in Fire-Prone Areas
By admin
Published 5 years ago on
December 12, 2018

Share

SACRAMENTO — California’s increasingly deadly and destructive wildfires have become so unpredictable that government officials should consider banning home construction in vulnerable areas, the state’s top firefighter says.
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott will leave his job Friday after 30 years with the agency. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said government and citizens must act differently to protect lives and property from fires that now routinely threaten large populations.
That may mean rethinking subdivisions in thickly forested mountainous areas or homes along Southern California canyons lined with tinder-dry chaparral. Los Angeles County supervisors on Tuesday were considering whether to allow a 19,000-home development in fire-prone mountains amid heavy criticism of the location’s high fire danger.
California residents should also train themselves to respond more quickly to warnings and make preparations to shelter in place if they can’t outrun the flames, Pimlott said.
Communities in fire zones need to harden key buildings with fireproof construction similar to the way cities prepare for earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes, and should prepare commercial or public buildings to withstand fires with the expectation hundreds may shelter there as they did in makeshift fashion when flames last month largely destroyed the Sierra Nevada foothills city of Paradise in Northern California.

Prohibiting Construction in Particularly Vulnerable Areas

California already has the nation’s most robust building requirement programs for new homes in fire-prone areas, but recent fire seasons underscore more is needed. Officials must consider prohibiting construction in particularly vulnerable areas, said Pimlott, who has led the agency through the last eight years under termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown.

“We’ve got to continue to raise the bar on what we’re doing and local land-use planning decisions have to be part of that discussion.” — Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott
He said it’s uncertain if those decisions should be made by local land managers or at the state level as legislative leaders have suggested. But Pimlott said “we owe it” to homeowners, firefighters and communities “so that they don’t have to keep going through what we’re going through.”
“We’ve got to continue to raise the bar on what we’re doing and local land-use planning decisions have to be part of that discussion,” he said.
California’s population has doubled since 1970 to nearly 40 million, pushing urban sprawl into mountain subdivisions, areas home to fast-burning grasslands and along scenic canyons and ridgetops that are susceptible to fires. After a crippling drought, the last two years have seen the worst fires in state history. November’s fire in the northern California town of Paradise was the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, killing at least 85 people and destroying nearly 14,000 homes.

Firefighters Did Not Anticipate California’s Wildfires Could Get Worse

A year earlier, a fire that ripped through the San Francisco Bay Area city of Santa Rosa killed 22 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes and other structures.
Every year since at least 2013, firefighters did not anticipate California’s wildfires could get worse, Pimlott said. But each year the fires have increased in intensity — driven by dry fuels, an estimated 129 million drought- and bark beetle-killed trees, and climate change.
In response, the state is doing more planned burning to eliminate brush and dead trees that serve as fuels for wildfires. The state will also add seven large firefighting aircraft, replace a dozen aging helicopters, provide firefighter counseling and ensure that firefighters have enough time off for medical checkups to help them manage the mental and physical stress from a fire season that now never ends.
He said California leads the nation in clearing away dead trees and thinning forested areas that are crowded with trees that can fuel fires, contrary to criticism by President Donald Trump who has blamed forest mismanagement for the fires.
“No other state, or even the federal government, are putting the amount of investment into this space as California,” Pimlott said.

Photo of Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Gov. Jerry Brown
File – In this Nov. 14, 2018, file photo, Ken Pimlott, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, left, shows California Gov. Jerry Brown where smoke is still rising from a smoldering tree during a tour of the fire ravaged Paradise Elementary School in Paradise, Calif. Pimlott told The Associated Press he prepares to retire on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018, after a 30-year career. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Stamp out Fires Quickly to Protect People and Property

The department’s philosophy for many years has been to stamp out fires quickly to protect people and property. Prescribed burns were previously used sparingly out of concern they could get out of control, but he said the department is making “a sea change” by recognizing that starting fires under optimum conditions is a good way to reduce dangerous fuels.
Recent fires that have burned into cities have made clear that those protections need to be centered around vulnerable communities, he said. Paradise, for example, was built on a ridge atop steep canyons that helped channel the wind-driven fire, while wildfires have repeated blown into Northern and Southern California subdivisions from neighboring wildlands thick with tinder-dry fuel.
Pimlott rose through the ranks from seasonal firefighter to deputy director of fire protection before his appointment as chief of the agency. In that role he doubles as the state’s chief forester and oversees a department that includes nearly 8,000 firefighters, forest managers and support staff.

Fire Conditions Have Worsened Each Passing Year

He said he has seen fire conditions worsen each passing year during his three decades with the agency, taking its toll on residents and firefighters alike.

“The reality of it is, California has a fire-prone climate and it will continue to burn. Fire is a way of life in California and we have to learn how to live with it, we have to learn how to have more resilient communities.” Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott
“Folks can say what they want to say, but firefighters are living climate change. It’s staring them in the face every day,” he said.
To adapt, he advocates wildfire warning systems that not only use new technology like automated phone calling systems, but maybe restoring civil defense-style emergency sirens in some areas. City planners must prepare communities “unlike we ever have before” with easy evacuation routes and new evacuation centers.
And he said Californians must treat “red flag” extreme fire danger warnings the way Midwesterners treat tornado warnings — as imminent threats.
“The reality of it is, California has a fire-prone climate and it will continue to burn,” he said. “Fire is a way of life in California and we have to learn how to live with it, we have to learn how to have more resilient communities.”

DON'T MISS

Sacramento Gave Homeless Camp a Lease as an Experiment. Here’s What Happened.

DON'T MISS

Merced Supervisors Accused of ‘Triple Crown Race’ of Failures Amid Talk of Closing Fire Stations

DON'T MISS

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

DON'T MISS

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

DON'T MISS

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

DON'T MISS

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

DON'T MISS

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

DON'T MISS

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

DON'T MISS

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

DON'T MISS

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

UP NEXT

Merced Supervisors Accused of ‘Triple Crown Race’ of Failures Amid Talk of Closing Fire Stations

UP NEXT

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

UP NEXT

Oakland Officials Vote to Include ‘San Francisco’ in Airport’s Name

UP NEXT

Several Writers Decline Recognition From PEN America in Protest Over Its Israel-Hamas War Stance

UP NEXT

US Consumer Sentiment Falls Slightly as Outlook for Inflation Worsens

UP NEXT

Tennessee Lawmakers Send Bill to Ban First-Cousin Marriages to Governor

UP NEXT

Instagram Blurs Nude Messages to Protect Teens, Fight Sexual Extortion

UP NEXT

Harvard Again Requiring Standardized Test Scores for Those Seeking Admission

UP NEXT

After Fong Ruling, a ‘Bitter Pill to Swallow’ for US Senate Losers Katie Porter & Barbara Lee?

UP NEXT

Wife of Julian Assange Says Biden’s Comments Mean Case Could Be Moving in the Right Direction

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

3 hours ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

15 hours ago

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

16 hours ago

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

17 hours ago

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

18 hours ago

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

18 hours ago

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

18 hours ago

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

20 hours ago

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

21 hours ago

From Tragedy to Triumph: The Land Before Time Litter’s Journey

22 hours ago

Sacramento Gave Homeless Camp a Lease as an Experiment. Here’s What Happened.

When Sacramento changed its plan to demolish a homeless encampment on a vacant lot on Colfax Street, instead offering the homeless occupants...

1 hour ago

1 hour ago

Sacramento Gave Homeless Camp a Lease as an Experiment. Here’s What Happened.

2 hours ago

Merced Supervisors Accused of ‘Triple Crown Race’ of Failures Amid Talk of Closing Fire Stations

3 hours ago

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

3 hours ago

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

15 hours ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

16 hours ago

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

17 hours ago

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

18 hours ago

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend