California Wildfires: People Overage, Water Shortage

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

December 11, 2017
thomas fire
Massive Wildfires Engulf Santa Barbara, Ventura

Typically, the Southern California wildfire season is in the early fall when temperatures are highest and winds are strongest. But if, as Governor Jerry Brown suggests, fires later in the year might become “the new normal,” then the state faces more deaths and more billions in destruction.

As of late Sunday, according to Cal Fire, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties were the hardest hit with 230,000 acres burned, 790 structures destroyed, with 191 damaged, and 18,000 threatened. Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the most vulnerable areas. The fires are only 10 percent contained, and with no rain forecast but high winds expected for the rest of the week, the fear is that conditions could grow worse.

Including the Santa Barbara/Ventura fires, before 2017’s end, the 12-month period could be the worst wildfire year in California’s history. On Friday, President Trump declared a federal state of emergency in California, and ordered additional aid that allows federal agencies to coordinate the relief efforts.

Two months ago, I reported on the Northern California wildfires which struck picturesque Sonoma and Napa Counties, and noted that the state’s leaders have failed to make the connection between overpopulation, and the difficulty in carrying out rescue missions that would save lives and buildings. The October death toll was about 44, with an estimated 8,900 structures burned, and $1 billion in losses incurred.

California’s exploding population has created an insatiable housing demand that have impeded rescue efforts. Areas of California that were once undeveloped now have housing that makes accessing afflicted fire areas difficult.

California is home to nearly 40 million residents, and demographers project more than 50 million 2050. In 1990, California had 30 million people, and in 1950, when I grew up in Los Angeles, the population was about 10 million.

Population growth in California has exceeded sustainability, and has reached dangerous levels especially if, as some meteorologists project, another drought hits.


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