California wildfires

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Wildfires are a common occurrence in the state of California each fire season, which reaches its highest point during mid to late part of the summer[1] during the dry season in the state.[2] Wildfires begin in rural areas, often where forests and grasslands are located, but can spread to suburban or urban areas if not contained, causing property damage or loss of life.


In recent decades, and particularly since the 1990s, California wildfires have become an increased problem in the state. According to Grist, "Drought, disease, and insects have left 100 million dead trees browning across California, and in some places, 90 percent of the trees have died."[3]


The worsening of these wildfires has been blamed variously on global warming and on illogical environmental policies. President Trump 'blamed the wildfires on "years" of poor forest management in California'[4]

Forbes Magazine reported:
  • California’s deadliest year of wildfires has been decades in the making, with overlapping environmental rules, both state and federal, making fuel load reductions in forests and coastal chaparral nearly impossible ...[5]
Grist asserted:
  • All this dry wood can stoke small blazes into uncontrollable infernos that ravage towns and choke the region with smoke.[3]
CNBC reported:
National Geographic has identified increased population, which has led to construction in the state's wilderness, as a reason for increased damage done from fires.[1]
CNN cited a scientific paper blaming climate change (aka global warming) for increasing wildfires. However that paper did not take into account multiple additional factors. For instance:
  • It is well known that past fire suppression has allowed surface fuels to accumulate in forests, leading to bigger and more devastating fires.[6]

Proposed Solutions

An article from the blog Debating Science in 2018 stated, "This issue could be solved by what are known as prescribed fires, or controlled burns. ... Burning supplemented by thinning generally is seen as the most effective combination in preventing severe wildfires".[7]

President Trump mentioned forest management as a possible option for reducing the severity of wildfires during the first Presidential debate in 2020, saying, "[W]e have to do better management of our forests."[8] A state senator responded via Tweet claiming the federal government is the majority owner of forested land in California and encouraged Trump to "get to work".[8]

Prisoner firefighters

After the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Plata (2011) declared California's prisons so overcrowded they violated prisoners' Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment, California Attorney General Kamala Harris fought federal court supervision. When California failed to fully implement the court's order to reduce overcrowding, and was ordered to implement new parole programs, Attorney General Harris appealed the decision, and in court filings Harris argued that if California were forced to release these inmates early, prisons would lose an important source of slave labor.[9] Prisoners in California earn between 8 and 37 cents per hour in maintenance and kitchen jobs; prisoners fighting California wildfires receive $1 per hour.[10]

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Here's how wildfires get started—and how to stop them", National Geographic, retrieved September 12, 2020
  2. The dry season in California roughly correlates with the state's summer.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Grist, Sep 19, 2019
  4. Trump hits California officials over wildfires: 'You've got to clean your floors'
  5. Trump's Right About California's Fires: It Wasn't Climate Change; Two New California Laws Prove It
  6. How Bad Science & Horrific Journalism Misrepresent Wildfires and Climate
  7. blog at University of Massachusetts
  8. 8.0 8.1 Trump slams California forest management during 1st debate as wildfires rage on
  9. "Federal judges order California to expand prison releases", Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2014. 
  10. Annika Neklason, California Is Running Out of Inmates to Fight Its Fires, The Atlantic (December 7, 2017).