When my husband and I first left for California in 1978, many of our friends and family thought we were crazy to be moving to a place where there were earthquakes. We soon learned that while earthquakes were rare, fire season was a yearly event. While these fires could be destructive, firefighters and Mother Nature usually got them under control quickly. Back then, the climate was hot and dry from around the end of September until early November, when it would usually start to rain.
Things certainly have changed. Now “fire season” starts in August, and rain isn’t something that we can count on at all. The toll keeps getting worse, with more lives, homes and towns lost each year. So far this year wildfires have caused at least 25 deaths. The loss in homes and structures is almost unimaginable. The town of Paradise, which burned to the ground in 2018 and was in the process of being rebuilt, is in danger again only two years later.
I have helped friends go through the rubble of their home looking for family heirlooms that might have survived. I know how to pack to evacuate quickly, and have spent nights waiting for the call that says we have to leave our home behind.
My husband and I used to talk about retiring to the Sonoma wine country but now we fear that the growing fire danger each year is making settling in that area too much of a risk. If climate change is life-changing for us in our upcoming retirement, I can’t imagine the impact it will have on the state in the future.
While most Californians and our state government don’t debate the reality of climate change, we need to elect a federal government that will be guided by science. If we don’t, our beloved state, along with other states in the western US, may become nothing but a burnt relic of past times. While some people delight in criticizing what they call the “Left Coast,” the California economy, and our culture, is very important to the entire world. We have the fifth biggest economy in the world, bigger than the UK, and our movies and television shows are watched on every continent. If California is dealing with out-of-control disasters every year, the entire world will suffer.
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