The explosion in catastrophic forest fires since 2000 obviously is primarily about climate change. But that climate change intersects with other parts of our society. After all, the entire measurement of a “natural disaster” is how it impacts humans. A major part of the problem exacerbating climate change is that there are just too many people in the forest, doing all kinds of stupid things out there. People effectively think they have a right to the forest and maybe they do. But between homeowners not creating defensible space around their homes, ignored campfires, homeless people living in little campsites doing whatever they want (this is a big problem in Oregon), and rednecks who think that Big Government Forest Service telling them what to do on extreme fire danger days is getting in the way of their liberty, we have all sorts of unnecessary fires all over the place. The fire that burned most of the Columbia Gorge was started by a punk kid throwing firecrackers. Heck, there was a gender reveal party in Arizona that led to a fire that burned 48,000 acres!
Then you have electrical companies not taking care of their lines to the communities out in the forest. This has been a serious issue in recent years. The Dixie Fire in California burned nearly one million acres and was entirely the fault of PG&E not maintaining their lines. The Holiday Farm Fire in Oregon that destroyed the McKenzie Valley probably came from the same reason. It started in the little community of Rainbow and nearly burned all the way west to Springfield. That’s still not completely clear. But what is clear is that PacificCorp caused the fire that did the same thing to the Santiam Canyon east of Salem. It is now trying to pay off the lawsuit money by raising rates, making everyone who already suffered through it pay again.
In short, the first thing that needs to happen if we are going to allow people to live in the forest is to force the companies to bury the lines. Yep, that’s pricey. You know what else is pricey? Mass death.