California knew the Carr wildfire could happen. It failed to prevent it.

Source(s)
ProPublica

By Keith Schneider

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Dozens of interviews and a review of local, state and federal records show that virtually every aspect of what came to be known as the Carr Fire — where it ignited, how and where it exploded in dimension and ferocity, the toll in private property — had been forecast and worried over for years. Every level of government understood the dangers and took few, if any, of the steps needed to prevent catastrophe. This account of how much was left undone, and why, comes at a moment of serious reassessment in California about how to protect millions of people living in vulnerable areas from a new phenomenon: Firestorms whose speed and ferocity surpass any feasible evacuation plans.

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At the federal level, the park service official responsible for fire prevention across Whiskeytown’s 39,000 acres of forest had been left to work with a fraction of the money and staffing he knew he needed to safeguard against an epic fire. What steps the local parks team managed to undertake — setting controlled fires as a hedge against uncontrollable ones — were severely limited by state and local air pollution regulations.

And both the residents and elected officials of Redding had chosen not to adopt or enforce the kind of development regulations other municipalities had in their efforts to keep homes and businesses safe even in the face of a monstrous wildfire.

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Success will require government agencies at every level to better coordinate their resources and efforts, and to reconcile often competing missions. It will require both a strategic and budgetary shift to invest adequately in fire prevention methods, even as the cost of fighting fires that are all but inevitable in the coming years continues to soar. And it will require residents to temper their desires for their dream homes with their responsibility to the safety of their neighbors and communities.

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