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Apocalypse Now

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Here’s a video of some of the destruction from the Marshall Fire. What was until four months ago our neighborhood is visible from 0:43 to 1:17. Our house was just south of the lake you can see the edge of in the upper right frame. It was a couple of blocks north of the one mysteriously untouched house, best visible at 1:16.

A few thoughts/questions:

(1) Does anyone understand how it’s possible for one house to remain completely untouched by a fire that reduced every single one of the dozens of houses around it to ash? The comments to the video feature a bunch paranoid conspiratorial nonsense about “directed energy weapons” (DEW). There’s apparently a whole narrative on the Internet about how “the Government” or maybe (((the banks))) are using (((space lasers))) to burn down neighborhoods so that (((the globalists))) can force everyone to live in the urban areas that are already under their dictatorial control.

(2) Incredibly, it appears that no one died in the fire, although a couple of people are for the moment missing. When you consider that the time between the beginning of what was initially a small brush fire four miles to the south and the total destruction of our old neighborhood was about three or four hours, this is a testimony I suppose to both the wonders of modern communication technology, and the largely liberal-left politics of the Boulder County area, which feature very few Harry Truman types (not that one, the other one), who aren’t going to evacuate their homes just because the government says there’s some sort of danger.

(3) I’m embarrassed to realize that I know nothing whatsoever about how insurance works in the context of this sort of catastrophe. For example, suppose somebody owns a house with a market value at the time of its destruction of $850K, of which $550K is the current market value of the lot, assuming the lot was buildable, as opposed to being in the middle of an apocalyptic disaster zone.

What does the typical policy cover? Just the value of the house and its contents? What if the cost of rebuilding is — as it certainly would be at the moment, because of other things supply chain issues, shortages of building materials, labor shortages etc. — much higher than the market value of the structure on the property pre-fire (In this hypo 300K)? Does insurance normally have to make up the difference, or are the homeowners stuck with the deficiency? What about the cost of merely making the lot buildable again, which is no doubt considerable? What about the costs of temporary housing — and temporary in this case could easily mean years, because of the issues above?

(4) It seems that at least 1000 houses were destroyed in the fire. At the present moment, there are less than 100 houses for sale in all of Boulder County for less than one million dollars, and this includes houses way out in the mountains that are totally unsuitable for people who have children in school in Louisville/Superior, and jobs in those towns or Boulder, or, as is often the case, half an hour or 45 minutes south in Denver. Meanwhile rental vacancy rates are extremely low, and rents are sky-high. So you have thousands of now-homeless people who have essentially nowhere to go (Friends and family can offer temporary help of course, but the Boulder area has very high percentages of younger professional couples who have no family anywhere in the area).

(5) We sold our house at the end of the summer to such a couple, who had just moved from the Bay area, and were buying their very first house. They were so excited after having spent a decade saving up for a down payment, and getting a job in an area where what they had would actually be enough to get a single family house (The Boulder area is naturally considered downright cheap by Bay area residents). Multiply their story — along with the stories of our former neighbors, many of whom had lived in the neighborhood for 30 years, when the houses were new — by one thousand, and you begin to get some idea of the scope of the catastrophe, which is itself is just one what have been and will be countless chapters in the ongoing story of climate change.

. . . Great interview with Boulder climate scientist Daniel Swain. (h/t Phil Koop)

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