California Is Burning

California is burning, as you may have noticed.

I had a house in one of those big fires 30 years ago. It burned right over the thing... went by like a freight train, and left the house standing. I was lucky.

Of course, I made some of my own luck. I cooked pancakes and eggs for the firefighters, and kept them camped out in my front yard for two days. Eventually, it worked. They saved the house.

Why does this stuff happen? Because Californians are doing their environmental duty. Whenever they can, they are building their houses up in the hills — in the brush that burns every few years — instead of down on the flats, in the valleys where the last of the state's agricultural lands are holding out against encroaching housing projects.

Obviously... that rule doesn't apply in Los Angeles, but it applies almost everywhere else.

So now — the way things work — thousands and thousands of people are living up in the hills with their houses built on tons and tons of fuel... that chaparral brush (search). Every so often, the fire gods get somebody.

What's changed about all this is the sheer numbers. When I was covering this stuff, we'd lose a few houses... 20 or 30. We've already lost over 800. The other thing is that people didn't really die in these things — once in a while, maybe. But this time, there are 13 dead and counting...

Fires in California are precisely the same fires they have always been. There are just more people and more houses in the way, and it seems like those numbers are only going to grow.

That's My Word.

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