Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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California Homes

This newsletter talks about fire vulnerability in California homes.


People love California. The problem is, most of it is not a good place to live, and it is rapidly getting worse.

A 2016 Climate Central analysis showed that the annual number of large fires has tripled since the 1970s and that the amount of land they burn is six times higher than it was four decades ago.
[---8<---]
The fire season is 105 days longer than it was in the 1970s, the Climate Central analysis found
.

That is a fire season increase of three and a half months.

Think how bad that is, then consider: This is the least worst it will ever be again. The area is getting hotter and drier due to climate change. The wildfires will get bigger, hotter, more frequent, and more dangerous.

And some idiots still want to build conventional houses in areas prone to fires. Now, if you wanted to build an underground home, or a dome home of fireproof material, that might be worth considering. But in much of California, a house that can burn eventually will burn. No amount of defensible gap or slightly fire-resistant materials will protect against a direct wildfire front; those are only useful against spark spread and other small fire events. People can either respect the laws of thermodynamics, or deal with a lot of burned-out buildings and some dead victims.

Building in fire-prone areas in an increasingly fire-friendly climate is not sustainable. While we won't run out of idiots, there are somewhat limited supplies of building materials and much more limited supplies of money. Replacing a tract of houses in a fire chimney once every 50 years is feasible, if foolish. Once every 15 years might be doable with outside funding. Once every 5 years, probably not. Somewhere around 1-2 years, you don't even have time to finish rebuilding before it all gets burned down again.

This is what I call environmental foreclosure. A formerly livable -- if marginal -- area becomes effectively uninhabitable due to changing climate and conditions. This has already happened in some parts of the world due to drought; China has rolled up some settlements and moved the people elsewhere. Some villages, including ones in Alaska, have been consumed by oceanfront erosion. In the West, the threat is fire, and also water shortages.

If people want to continue living in California, they will have to deal with the fact that it now has less livable space than it did several decades ago. That means looking at new ways to develop the parts that are still livable -- and preferably, not crowd the edges of the environmental foreclosure, because that area will spread over time, gobbling up buildings in the perimeter.
Tags: economics, environment, nature, news, politics, safety
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