What’s an effective approach to preventing wildfires in Southern California?

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In an effort to control the spread of wildfire, a Cal Fire aircraft is spraying fire retardant on a hill in Santa Clara County, California, United States on August 20, 2020. Multiple large lightnings on Sunday, August 16, 2020, have caused fires burning in the mountains near Santa Clara and San Jose. Photo by Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA.

Firefighters are gaining control of the giant wildfires that have burned hundreds of thousands of acres in Northern California. But on Monday, one firefighter from Texas died and another was injured while fighting one of the blazes.

So far this season, Southern California has been spared any huge fires. But that may not last. In the next few days, the region is expecting hot temperatures and offshore winds.

“Fire is a powerful force of nature. We’re kind of in a situation of damned if we do and damned if we don’t do in terms of preventing and suppressing wildfires,” says Tim Ingalsbee, founder of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology. 

He continues, “When fires happen in conditions beyond our control, then what happens is we add more fire to a wildfire. These huge backfires we ignite under conditions out of our control. … We had to destroy it to save it. That’s often about the only thing that can be done in those Southern California chaparral fires during the Santa Ana winds.”

Rick Halsey, founder of California Chaparral Institute, says it’s important to stop putting people in harms’ way when it comes to constructing homes and buildings. Also, there must be financial investments in retrofitting the structures and protecting the communities. 

“The ultimate problem right now is that we look at fire as like a military campaign. It’s an enemy we need to fight, we need to put out. And the forests … have suffered from this. And the chaparral has too,” says Halsey. “What has to happen is no, we’re not going to fight the fire, we’re going to protect lives and property. And those are two radically different perspectives.”

Credits

Guests:
Tim Ingalsbee - Founder of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology, Rick Halsey - Founder of California Chaparral Institute

Host:
Steve Chiotakis

Producers:
Christian Bordal, Jenna Kagel