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Debating the Future of Development in California's Fire Prone Areas

With the state of California in the grips of its most destructive year of wildfires ever, policy makers are pondering questions about whether it is appropriate to rebuild in places at high risk of burning again.
December 22, 2017, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Wine Country Fires
The National Guard

"With the frequency and cost of catastrophic wildfires climbing in California, the idea of compensating property owners to not rebuild — or using economic pressure to discourage them from building in the first place — is gaining supporters among those searching for ways to cut wildfire losses," according to an article by Doug Smith.

While some policy makers and academics have proposed measures that would control the scale to which the state rebuilds in areas that have already burned, or builds new in places likely to build in the future, there are many policies in place in California that expedite rebuilding. Many in favor of rebuilding point out that new houses built to replace houses that burnt down in the fire would be built to much higher standards of fire resistance. Meanwhile, those who say the state shouldn't continue to build in fire danger areas, say a "three-strikes" rule or public land acquisition programs should be implemented around the state.

There's also the ongoing question of how to predict future fires, which was explained by an earlier Planetizen post by Katharine Jose. Along those lines, Jones reports that Cal Fire plans to revise its fire prediction maps, "[i]n light of experience showing that wind-blown embers can carry fire into suburban areas."

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Published on Saturday, December 16, 2017 in Los Angeles Times
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