(…and going up in smoke)

California is still burning…and going up in smoke, well, most of the northern part of the state that is. Every year the same cycle seems to repeat itself…rain and mudslides in winter …wildfires in the summer and fall…with the occasional shimmy and shake of a quake or two in between.

This year has been particularly extreme. Winter was one of the wettest on record to the point where most of the reservoirs, after years of being nearly bone dry, were suddenly overflowing …their dams barely holding together…and all creeks and rivers flooding all over the place …blessed relief after all those years of drought…but a bit too much of a good thing.

All that wet, of course, then simply revived all the water-starved plant growth so that by the time things dried out, and the usual summer dry-up turned it from happy green to tinder brown, a wildfire blowout was not unexpected. Still, as with the rain, these fires this time have been a bit much…with Mother Nature adding to the problem with strong winds to fan all that bright-burning material to send flaming embers out in all directions…as swarms  of nasty firebugs spreading fire and smoke over nearly half-dozen counties simultaneously.

Despite heroic efforts by a multitude of firefighters to cope with and contain all this fiery chaos, entire towns, homes and ranches, vineyards, have been wiped out, or nearly so, and too many lives lost as well. Mercifully, relief seems to be on its way with some cold ocean winds to cool things down alomg with a smidge of rain to perhaps help extinguish it as well. For the firefighters’ sakes we certainly hope so. They been at it non-stop for a good ten days (some losing their own homes and a few of their own as well while on the fire lines).

At this stage there’s no way to tell if this fiery holocaust was human caused (by accident or on purpose), or by lightning. Regardless, several important lessons should be drawn from all this destruction and misery. That is, one would think that since this is a known annual occurrence, certain commonsense measures would be taken either to prevent, or at least minimize, the extent to which such wildfires can expand.

First, and foremost, ensuring that the key fuel for these…undergrowth and other brush plant material…is regularly kept down as much as possible. One of the most effective means for doing that is with…goats. As voracious browsers and grazers, they will clean out any area filled with such flammable material…and almost in the blink of an eye besides.

The second and equally important priority, ensuring that all homes and structures in areas susceptible to such fire conditions…have roofs and sidings made of non-combustible materials. Modern construction technologies have developed such things as shingles, siding, etc., which have the look and feel of traditional wooden ones…but won’t easily ignite…when covered or hit by wind-driven embers.

These were the two leading factors which allowed such a catastrophic event to occur.

We can but hope that such commonsense considerations will guide everyone involved with the reconstruction and rebuilding efforts that will now follow this disaster.