The Atlantic has a good photo essay of the destruction afoot there…
I’m struck that we usually associate these sorts of fires with the urban wildland fringe, and there is only some of that going on here. Especially when people build on rural lots normally covered with chaparral. We don’t have exactly chaparral up here in WA, but we have own varieties of shrubby plants that can burn very effectively if given the chance in August to do so. Even here on the more moist west side.
But the majority of houses being destroyed are clearly in suburban/exurban type of developments. The sort of area you would expect to have a mosaic terrain; a few trees. a few lawns, intercut with roadways and sidewalks. No different than any other suburban development than I’ve ever seen… a little more prosperous to be sure, but you would think the built-in firebreaks of that sort of development would be sufficient to stop or slow something like this… whatever “this” is. It looks more like a squadron of B52s loaded with incendiary bombs flew over. And it suggests to me that no suburb in America is safe if the the right conditions are present and a ‘firestorm’ is created. Scary.
The post incident report should be interesting… I’m struck that all these houses, people’s homes, built to whatever the local zoning standard required. Even the insurance companies will have chimed in to those, or exerted some influence through their rate structure. What needs to change to prevent this sort of thing in the future…(?)
Some people will always find way to build their house in the exact wrong place, like in the middle of a forest, 15 miles up a forest service road. Miles away from “town” if there is one nearby. We have our share of those people around here - I feel bad for them when they get hit by fire, I’m happy when the fire fighters can get to them first. But another part of me says that is the deal w/ living so far in the woods. I live in a rural area, and we have woodlots all over the place, some are quite large. So some would argue with merit that I’m one of those people too. There, but for the grace of god, go I.
But people in Santa Rosa (and surrounding) houses were technically playing by all the rules - or thought they were, until the rules got changed. It’s like they built on 1000 yr flood plain - which doesn’t really exist because no one actually plans that way - and the next year the freak 1000 yr flood hits. New rules now apply… this is crazy and as sad as any of the stuff that happened down in the South, and all the fire stuff around here from this summer. We’ll try send some of our rain clouds down there if we can.