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firesThe tragic news of more fires in Sonoma County (as well as LA) has me sick at heart. Most of us connected to the wine industry have friends in the area whose homes and livelihoods are threatened once again. It has become a yearly occurrence each fall when the winds come. The burdens on the people who live there are exacerbated by the new policy of shutting down the electric grid for days on end to prevent faulty equipment from sparking new fires.

Worries about the welfare of residents there are accompanied by a feeling of helplessness. There just is not much we can do in the short run to forestall these events. Once the fire is out, of course, we should visit Sonoma and buy their wines. That’s important up to a point but clearly not a solution.

It should be obvious at this point that the situation is unsustainable. We cannot live like this.

So I heartily endorse Steve Heimoff’s post “California needs a Marshall Plan to combat these fires.”

For those unfamiliar with the aftermath of WWII, the Marshall Plan was a U.S. recovery program that provided massive economic development aid to Western Europe following the devastation of World War II. It has come to symbolize any large-scale, government funded rescue plan.

As Steve writes:

In calling for a Marshall Plan, I mean for the Governor to reassure an anxious public that these fires are no routine matter—that they have now placed themselves at the top of his to-do list. Newsom didn’t run on combating wildfires. I doubt that there’s ever been an American politician who ran for office with disaster prevention his or her main priority. But here we are: politicians need to be flexible, in order to respond to real-world events, and these fires are as real-world as you can get.

I have no idea what the solution is and neither does Steve. But he is right that establishing fire prevention and mitigation as a fundamental priority is the first step. It will likely require new thinking on a host of issues from the construction of the electrical grid to where development occurs and how forests are managed. It will probably require more taxes.

And all of this is of course bound up with the problem of climate change and the boneheads (a more polite term than the one I had in mind) who ignore it.

But sitting around hoping that next year won’t be so bad seems like a vain and foolish hope at this point.

Another wind event is predicted for today that could wipe out the progress made yesterday in fighting the fires.

It probably won’t help but–fingers crossed. What else can you do?