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Why is California always on fire?

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 Geography   |   Environmental   |   Science
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Humans are making the problem worse. Can we get out of nature’s way, for our own good?

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Wildfires are intensifying in California — but “wild”fires might be a misnomer at this point, because humans are responsible for why they’ve gotten so out of control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 84 percent of fires are started by humans. The Carr fire in northern California, for example, was sparked by the rim of car with a flat tire.

If you look at where California’s population is growing and getting denser, you’ll see that more and more people are building in areas that are at risk, increasing the potential for costly destruction — 2017 was the most expensive year on record, topping $10 billion in damages.

Since we drastically exacerbated this problem, can we swing it back the other way? The impact of man-made climate change is unlikely to reverse. And people continue to build in dangerous areas, with no sign of stopping. By 2050, there could be over 640,000 new homes built in the path of wildfires.

Here’s the research paper explaining how humans start most fires: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/11/2946.full

And here is the data on humans expanding into wildfire territory:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264837714001409?via%3Dihub

Cal Fire keeps excellent statistics on the fires in the state:
http://www.calfire.ca.gov/

Read more of Vox’s coverage of the fires:
https://www.vox.com/2018/8/7/17661096/california-wildfires-2018-mendocino-carr-ferguson-climate

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com

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