"The long-term battle is one that fire experts suggest cannot be won, even with the better building codes and evacuation plans that have become a staple of government here and across much of the West. As the events of this week illustrate - at least 480,000 acres burned, 1,575 residences destroyed and 7 people killed - the cycle roars on with higher stakes, greater risk, and the grim certainty that it will happen again.
The California state fire marshal, Kate Dargan, said discussions had begun at the highest levels of government on some of the toughest proposals: curtailing population growth on the wildland margins or a sweeping overhaul of how the public lands are managed for fire danger. But decisions are perhaps 5 to 10 years away because of the enormity and complexity of the task.
"In the meantime," Ms. Dargan said, "we'll have more people living out there, and if averages hold, we'll have two more catastrophic incidents like this before the decisions get made."
Many Californians say they want the best of both worlds - life in the danger zone and more fire protection - and are frustrated that they do not have it."