PD Editorial: Being prepared for wildland fires

  • A plane drops fire retardant as firefighters battle a blaze near Yosemite National Park. (AL GOLUB / Associated Press)

Investigators haven’t identified the cause of two fires that scorched more than 11,000 acres in Napa County last month, but there’s a disturbing commonality to some of the worst wildfires this year in drought-stricken California: human negligence.

In Shasta County, the Bully fire burned more than 12,600 acres, destroyed 20 structures and resulted in one death. The cause? Investigators blame a Sacramento man who parked his truck in dry grass while making a deliver to an illegal marijuana farm.

A vehicle also is blamed for the Sand fire, which has burned 4,200 acres and 19 homes in Amador County since last week.

In April, an illegal campfire ignited a 2,100-acre blaze in the San Bernardino National Forest near Rancho Cucamonga forced the closure of nine schools and the evacuation of 1,500 homes.

Unfortunately, none of these stories is unusual.

About nine in 10 wildfires are caused by people, according to the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group, a coalition of state and federal emergency response agencies.

We’d like to think people would act more responsibly given all the warnings about heightened fire danger due to the drought.

Clearly, that hasn’t been the case.

Meanwhile, California’s crippling drought keeps getting worse.

For the first time since the federal government started issuing regular drought reports two decades ago, more than half of the state has the most severe ranking, an “exceptional drought.” Add those areas where the drought is classified as “extreme,” and 82 percent of the Golden State is historically parched.

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