Urban growth contributes to wildfires and hurricane property losses

Published 9:01 am Tuesday, December 11, 2018

To the Editor:
With the horrendous wildfires in California we hear all types of ignorant and in some cases stupid comments as to who or what the cause was. To support their agenda some sight global warming and want to blame the government or poor President Trump while others blame industry. The same scenario was also heard when we had the recent bad hurricanes. But what are the facts? In California the region of the recent wild fires is a typical suburban area with houses relatively close together and plenty of fire fuel in the form of trees and shrubbery. Like a lot of California it is quite arid at times. You mix that with the relatively high steady state winds that occur naturally off and on and you have a scenario for a fire storm once it gets started. Urban expansion into such areas is not wise unless you reduce the fire fuel. Trees should be spaced to stop the spread of fire; i.e., so that a fire cannot jump from one tree to the next during high wind conditions. A similar procedure should be used in planting shrubs and small bushes. In addition to trees, brush and shrubs that are dead should be removed. To further aggravate the situation in some areas radical environments have prevented the removal of old or dead brush and trees. In addition, California does not have an abundance of water to support plant life that is not so flammable. So when you replace the existing natural vegetation with urban expansions (subdivisions) you are increasing the risk of costly fires. Even in the natural state there still were fires but people did not live there and thus they were not that alarming. When you upset the natural cycle of nature you are going to have problems if you do not do something to rectify the situation. That is seldom done by us humans until after the fact if then.
In the case of California the best thing to do is not have urban development in such areas unless you are going to take the proper steps mentioned above otherwise you will continue to have large financial losses as well as loss of lives. Don’t build in harm’s way. As for so called global warming, if it is occurring, it would be a minor contributor.
Relative to damage due to hurricanes much the same applies. If you look at the last 100 years and the previous 100 years you will see there were just as many if not more hurricanes and just as ferocious in both periods. The big difference is that many hurricanes of the previous 100 years came through open land and thus did not make the headlines. There was no one in harm’s way. The same is true of tornados. As the urbanizing of America continues we will see more financial losses both due to hurricanes and tornadoes. If people continue to build along vulnerable sections of the ocean’s shorelines there will be greater and greater financial losses. Fortunately we have a weather warning system that suppresses the loss of lives. The same will happen to areas prone to have tornados. In the previous 100 years you had just as many tornados but no one lived there thus they were ignored. It wasn’t global warming; it was urban growth that resulted in large financial losses as well as loss of lives.

J. Ronald Winter

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