Forest Fires in the Golden State

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach [See update at end] [Note correction under Figure 1.]

Our charmingly incompetent California Governor, Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown, has announced that all climate-change deniers are “definitely contributing” to the wildfires in the northern and southern parts of the state over the past few days, as well as blazes “in the coming years.” So look out, you dang “deniers”, it’s all your fault!

He continued:

“This is not the ‘new normal.’ This is the ‘new abnormal.’ And this new abnormal will continue, certainly in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years … And unfortunately the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify. Predictions by some scientists are we’ve already gone up one degree; I think we can expect a half a degree, which is catastrophic, over the next 10-12 years. So we have a real challenge here threatening our whole way of life.”

And what is his brilliant solution? Why … to my shock and surprise, Governor Moonbeam proposes throwing more and even more taxpayer money at it:

“And we’re going to have to invest more and more in adaptation. When we talk about things like the climate, and the warming climate, and we talk about words like ‘adaptation,’ that’s what we’re talking about. And it’s not millions, it’s billions, and tens, and probably hundreds of billions even in the span of a few years.”

So … did scientists actually “predict” that past temperatures have gone up by one degree? Can scientists actually predict the past? And can we really expect half a degree of warming in the next decade? To get some perspective on these questions, I thought I’d take a look at the records. I found an interesting site, the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC), which has a variety of weather-related data state by state. So with no further ado, here is the average temperature in California from January of 1895 to the present, October 2018.

Figure 1. Average monthly California temperatures from the WRCC. The seasonal variations have been removed.

Now, has the temperature gone up by one degree as the Governor said? Well, yes, but only since 1895. Since 1895, it has been going up at a rate of about 0.12°C, twelve-hundredths of a degree Celsius, per decade. [NOTE: An earlier version of this post mistakenly stated that the trend was two-hundredths of a degree per decade, rather than the correct value of twelve-hundredths of a degree per decade. The text has been changed to reflect the correct values. My thanks to Grietver, the commenter who pointed out my error.]

How much is twelve-hundredths of a degree Celsius? Well, as is widely known, temperature decreases with altitude. You can feel this when you go from sea level up the side of a mountain, for example. The rate at which the temperature drops is about 1°C for every hundred metres of additional altitude.

And this means that 0.12°C is about the altitude-caused temperature drop between … wait for it … the ground floor and the fourth floor of a building. In other words, it’s equivalent to moving 12 metres (40 feet) vertically up the side of a mountain …

So obviously, the Governor is telling porkies when he says that anthropogenic temperature rise is the cause of the recent decade’s fires. The temperature rise in California is small, twelve-hundredths of a degree Celsius in a decade. That is not enough to make a big difference like the increase in fires that we’ve seen in the last decade.

Well, if it’s not the temperature, how about the rainfall? Is climate change making the state dryer? Fortunately, the WRCC has the data for that as well. Here’s the monthly rainfall in California.

annualized rainfall statewide CA

Figure 2. Annualized monthly rainfall in California per the WRCC. Since rainfall data is usually given in inches per year, not per month, I have multiplied all of the values by 12 to “annualize” them, in order to make the trend a yearly trend.

Is the precipitation decreasing? Yes … by a totally meaningless five-hundredths of an inch (1.1 mm) per decade. So that is clearly not the reason for the increase in fires.

So what is the reason for the increase in fires? Actually, there are a few reasons.

First, our forests have not been harvested properly for some years. This is the result of a variety of lawsuits, one of which banned logging in many areas in 1994. This was in a vain attempt to protect the Spotted Owl. Unfortunately, this was just a green fantasy—stopping the logging has had no effect on the decline of the Spotted Owl. It appears that instead, it is being displaced by another owl, the Barred Owl.  Oops … and there have been a host of other lawsuits that have stopped or restricted logging.

Next, California regulations highly restrict both the logging and the thinning of forests. After the fires in Redding, Governor Brown said he’d work to change the laws … but so far, crickets.

Naturally, when you don’t log and you don’t thin the forest, you get a buildup of what is called the “fuel load”. This is the amount of burnable stuff per acre. And when that happens, what would otherwise be a small fire turns into a large fire very quickly

Finally, a couple of years back we had a big El Nino/La Nina event. This led to the recent couple of warmer, drier years. There’s a name for this, and it is not “climate change”—it’s called “weather”.

Now, there’s been a meme circulating on the internet saying that President Trump is bad and wrong to blame the State, because according to the meme, 98% of the forest in California is National Forest, and 2% is State Forest. Nothing could be further from the truth.

trump forestry meme

But in fact, about 43% of the forest is privately held, and of the remainder 98% is Federal and 2% is State forest. So overall, about 44% of the forests in California are ruled by California laws and regulation.

But wait, as they say on TV, there’s more … both of the recent fires, the Camp Fire in Paradise and the Woolsey Fire in Thousand Oaks, occurred on privately owned forest. Which means the Federal Government had nothing to do with the regulations leading up to these fires.

Should President Trump have been so aggro? Of course not, that was a mistake … but I can understand his anger, given that Governor Brown is claiming that the fires have nothing to do with California regulations.

But not to worry. The Governor said that steps to combat global warming can still, eventually, “shift the weather back to where it historically was.”

Ah, yes, back to where it historically was, to the mythical Climate Eden, where the weather is the same year after year after year …

Where once it never rained till after sundown
By 8 a.m the morning fog had flown
Don’t let it be forgot that once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment
That was known as Camelot

[UPDATE] A commenter asked:

Could you please give us a ‘public relations’ plot of the “Average monthly California temperatures from the WRCC” on a hardware store thermometer

We’re nothing if not a full-service website:

Here, my gorgeous ex-fiancee and I staying in the Youth Hostel in Santa Cruz on our way back home. The smoke from the forest fires was bad in the Central Valley on the way up from LA, but it’s relatively clear in Santa Cruz. The word from where we live, though, is that it is still quite bad there … we’ll find out tomorrow.

Best regards to all,


PS: When you comment, please quote the exact words that you are discussing, so we can understand just what you are talking about.

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November 12, 2018 8:21 pm

“We’re in extreme climate change right now…”
LA County Fire Chief Daryl Osby, 11/12/18, during a briefing on the Woolsey fire.
*Right now* I would like for the chief to read Willis’ post above.

Reply to  Windsong
November 12, 2018 11:32 pm

Yep … Here come those Santa Ana winds again …

Seems as though the Chief moves around quite a bit.
However, with his … uh … thorough … history in the State of CA … one would think he’d know something of the Santa Ana winds and take appropriate preventative precautions. Oh, I don’t know … ban burning, red flag warnings … something other than race pandering and CAGW pandering … Prog. politic pandering.

Don K
Reply to  Kenji
November 13, 2018 2:29 am

Kenji — The US weather service posts weather warnings on a national map at I don’t check it as part of my daily routine, but I did pass through there a week or so ago — before the Camp Fire — and I do seem to recall red flag warnings posted for the Northern Sacramento Valley. Trouble is that you probably can’t realistically react strongly — beyond red flag warnings and banning burning — for every potentially hot, dry day. That’s half the year in California.

(Parenthetically, I think outdoor burning was banned in the LA Basin 60 or 70 years ago to fight air pollution. I recall that my dad used to burn trash in our backyard incinerator during WWII. He stopped using it in the late 1940s or 1950s.)

Reply to  Don K
November 13, 2018 10:11 am

Let me clarify my point.

For this Fire Chief to be lecturing the public about global warming INSTEAD of focusing all his attention and resources on actually PREVENTING fires during exceptionally hazardous conditions is simply INCOMPETENT. And if you want to look at it more “complexly” rather than “simply” … a Fire Chief who acts like this … speaks like this (talk, talk, talk, talk …) … is CRIMINALLY NEGLIGENT! He has abdicated his duties to a mythical condition (beyond his control).

I have lived in this state for all of my 63 years and can attest to the fact that nothing has changed “climatically” during those 63 years. Nothing that in any way that has altered existing patterns (ex. Santa Ana winds, or 50% of warm, dry days) affecting fire danger. This sort of comment from the Chief and Gov. is perfectly emblematic of WHY focusing and devoting so many public resources on “global warming” is actually deadly-STUPID. This Chief and outgoing Gov. Brown need to shut the fkcu-up! about global warming and instead start DOING something proactive to PREVENT fires.

After my last rant here about the inexcusable explosion of mega-fires in CA and asking WHY there are no longer any simple public service messages about Fire Prevention … such as Smoky Bear reminders … suddenly on the radio there have appeared Smoky Bear (National Forest Service) advertisements warning about Fire danger (WUWT gets RESULTS!). In fact, the advertisements are so specific as to warn (stupid) people that dragging chains behind their automobiles when towing things can spark and cause fires! (reported cause of the devastating Carr fire).

So what has Gov. Brown DONE since the Carr Fire? Wagged his finger in the face of the public and lectured us about “global warming”! … implying that the fires are OUR fault for heating our homes and driving cars. What has Chief Daryl Osby done? … wagged his finger in our faces and lectured us about “global warming”! Thus absolving himself from any responsibility (except to attend the next UNION luncheon).

Until we get rid of STUPID people electing STUPID politicians and bureaucrats … nothing will change. The State will continue to “burn-baby-burn”. Makes me wonder if this African-American Fire Chief is channeling his inner Marvin-X when lecturing us about “global warming”

Burn Baby Burn is a poem by American poet Marvin X (aka El Muhajir). X wrote the poem shortly after the Watts Rebellion in 1965, to convey the oppression Black people faced in white America

PS … My grandfather and I used to rake-up and burn the brush that grew on the creek bank in his beautiful urban-wildland interfaced suburban town in N. CA. No incinerator … just raked into a pile and burned on a terrace adjacent to the creek. Somehow he managed not to be STUPID and burn on a windy day, or cause a massive conflagration.

Reply to  Kenji
November 13, 2018 12:44 pm

I’ve seen prairie fires started by a person welding DURING a red flag warning (tens of thousands of acres went up), an art teacher leaving a burning barrel going when he left for several hours and the landfill carelessly leaving smoldering material under a compost pile. The latter took out 13 houses and cost the city dearly. People are foolish and careless with fire in many places.

Reply to  Windsong
November 13, 2018 8:36 am
Reply to  JHB
November 13, 2018 10:14 am

That’s just revolting. Thanks for making my stomach churn. A lesson that it PAYS $$$ to preach the Party line.

Reply to  JHB
November 13, 2018 2:21 pm

But Chief Osby received [so, I guess, worked] no overtime 2011-2017 inclusive.

Devotion to duty [and a salary that reflects & includes that], or a 9-5, only, man.
I think the former is more likely, but YMMV.


November 12, 2018 8:23 pm

Hello Willis:

Excellent data-based post. I love it.

It falls apart a bit when you get into policies affecting forest fires. You left out development of of the urban forest interface and forest fire suppression since 1911, which is the proximate cause of forest fuels build-up. These data are readily available, too.

Glad you enjoyed your stay here in Santa Cruz. No global warming or sea level rise round these parts!

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 13, 2018 11:53 am

Great post W. Could you please give us a ‘public relations’ plot of the “Average monthly California temperatures from the WRCC” on a hardware store thermometer. The result is utterly shocking.

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 14, 2018 5:59 am

I wonder if the 49 states also show that nice flat line. You should print it in postcards and give them away in global warming rallies.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 13, 2018 6:29 am

You can say that again.

bit chilly
Reply to  OK S.
November 13, 2018 7:46 am

and again 😉

i won’t comment on moonbeam and his idiocy, well except to say it was other idiots that voted him in. i have my fingers crossed your home is in one piece when you return willis, a beautiful place you have there.

Reply to  Michael Lewis
November 13, 2018 8:21 am

Michael Lewis is 100% correct. Pine forests burn! They need to burn periodically. That pine sap, excellent fuel.

People who want to live out in the woods are asking for it. Fighting forest fires is a fundamental error. And, apparently both of these fires started just after a power line failed, probably from a transformer fire. SCE and PG&E both reported outages right where the fires started a few minutes before, 2 minutes for SCE, 15 minutes for PG&E.

So, we have the huge fuel load, dry conditions recently, houses where they do not belong, and lots of casualties. Wake up and smell the coffee, children, this is no one’s fault except the real estate people.

Reply to  Michael Moon
November 13, 2018 10:21 am

People who want to live the densely populated urban areas are just asking for it. Fighting urban property crimes is a fundamental error; it is a waste of resources that tries to maintain a disproportionate balance of the overall wealth.

And, apparently most of these property crimes occur when poor people don’t have access to something that they need or want. This need and want is the ongoing, so enforcement of property protections would not help anything.

So, we have the high density population; haves & have nots living next to each other; a huge & unfair wealth gap that does not belong in a civilized society; and lots of resulting crime. Wake up and smell the coffee, children, this is no one’s fault except the real estate people.

Reply to  DonM
November 13, 2018 3:39 pm

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Steve R
Reply to  Michael Moon
November 13, 2018 3:56 pm

Your Governer is a jerk. I have no responsibility for causing that fire, and my carbon footprint is a tiny fraction of his. You all need to give him the boot.

Steve R
Reply to  Michael Moon
November 13, 2018 3:58 pm

People who want to live in the woods are asking for it? Is this really what you meant to say?

Reply to  Steve R
November 13, 2018 4:11 pm

I can’t live in the woods, I can’t live by the ocean, I can’t live by rivers. Where am I suppose to live to enjoy this beautiful planet earth? In a big man made city….

Reply to  Steve R
November 14, 2018 8:52 am

Yes. I have never bought a house in an area known to sustain forest fires. I don’t know why people do this.

Seems like poor planning to me.

Eric Elsam
Reply to  Michael Lewis
November 13, 2018 8:45 am

Google Earth Street View shows that the residents of Paradise CA were living in the midst of a forest. An extreme example of the urban-forest interface. Almost every street was lined with tall trees, many of which were conifers. The resulting disaster was horrible and inevitable.

Reply to  Michael Lewis
November 13, 2018 10:29 am

Here’s an idea! to “solve” development of the urban-wildland interface. Stop importing third worlders and H1b Visa holders and thus STOP the CA population from DOUBLING every 30 years (or less). Stop importing disaffected leftists from every corner of the US who vote for STUPID politicians (PS the “CA people” just elected a supermajority leftist legislature)

Until then … the urban-wildland interface will continue to grow … until … the wildlands have completely burned and no longer exist. The. It will be the urban-dead forest interface

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Kenji
November 14, 2018 7:13 am

I heard a commenter on tv the other day say that California’s population was about 15 million in 1960, and has grown to about 45 million today.

That’s a lot of new housing additions.

Walter Sobchak
November 12, 2018 8:39 pm

You can say that again.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
November 13, 2018 9:38 am

Oh, that was funny, Walter! Another coffee out the nose moment!
Now I have to clean up.

BTW – great post as usual, Willis.

J Mac
Reply to  Walter Sobchak
November 13, 2018 10:14 am

I’m experiencing deja view…

Tom Halla
November 12, 2018 8:40 pm

Blaming California politicians, not just the State Government, is also appropriate. As under the rules in place until very recently, Calizuela Senators, usually recently Democrats, had the ability to block Federal judicial appointments, under the so-called “blue slip” rule.
Federal judges in the state and the Ninth Circuit generally sided with the more extreme environmentalists in blocking any reasonable wildlands management.

Reply to  Tom Halla
November 12, 2018 9:55 pm

I call it the PDRK: People’s Democratic Republic of Kalifornia

Reply to  Don
November 13, 2018 12:56 am

How could there be a place called Paradise in Hell ? And why do all those movie and other stars live in the warmest and driest places of the US but constantly blaming global warming while enjoying their enormous swimming pool?

Reply to  Don
November 13, 2018 7:38 am

ICE — Imperial Californy Empire ruled by Emperor/God Moonbeam. Maybe those lefty-kooks got a point when talking about abolishing ICE?

John M Ware
Reply to  Tom Halla
November 13, 2018 3:03 am

The “blue slip rule” is simply permission for legislators–most often senators–to make recommendations for some federal positions. As far as I know, nothing about the bsr is mandatory; the president is the one who chooses, and he can follow or disregard the blue slip. In some cases, Trump has disregarded it, much to the dismay of the Democrats. Case in point: New appointments to the 9th Circuit will most likely not follow the blue slip recommendations. Even after Trump decides who will fill the six vacancies, there will be more lefties than conservatives; but the margin will be less. Perhaps a few of the 9C rulings will be a tad less insane–I surely hope so!

Tom Halla
Reply to  John M Ware
November 13, 2018 7:21 am

The “blue slip” procedure was treated as if it was mandatory until Trump and McConnell recently changed it. The incumbent judges in the Ninth Circuit reflected the politics of the region’s Senators.

Curious George
Reply to  Tom Halla
November 13, 2018 9:52 am

I just heard our beloved Governor Jerry Brown (D) on TV. He acknowledged that a forest mismanagement was a problem, but there are many more problems to solve.

My interpretation: He will push for a high speed train to nowhere, which will stop the global warming. Ditto, windmills and solar plants. Who cares for forest thinning? That’s not glamorous.

Reply to  Curious George
November 13, 2018 10:33 am

And what will our next narcissist-Gov. do? Check out his reflection in the closest mirror or television monitor? whilst wagging his bony finger in our face lecturing about some mythical, imaginary … “climate change”

November 12, 2018 8:55 pm

Hotter during the dust bowl
Most board feet harvested was in the 60’s
comment image

Tom Abbott
Reply to  upcountrywater
November 14, 2018 7:23 am

“Hotter during the dust bowl”

Yes, and figure 1 above shows just that.

That gives me another chart to put in my collection that shows the 1930’s as being as warm or warmer than subsequent years.

In the text below figure 1, David says (correctly) that “Since 1895, it [the global temperature trend] has been going up at a rate of about 0.12°C”. But it also can be said that the temperature trend is going down since the 1930’s in California and the rest of the United States.

November 12, 2018 9:05 pm

Where are the class action lawyers who could actually be useful for a change in going after any and all green groups that have prevented proper forest maintenance that would have reduced fuel loads. Manslaughter charges should also be considered against officials and persons responsible.

My deepest sympathy to the victims of the fires and their families. We know what it feels like here in
Australia but slowly there is beginning to be realistic action to reduce fuel load and therefore hopefully reduce the severity of fire.

Reply to  Quilter52
November 13, 2018 4:12 am

Suing big green would be extremely helpful.

Reply to  hunter
November 13, 2018 8:01 am


Reply to  Robert Kernodler
November 13, 2018 12:56 pm

Uff da!

Reply to  Quilter52
November 13, 2018 10:40 am

Burn Baby Burn is a poem by American poet Marvin X (aka El Muhajir). X wrote the poem shortly after the Watts Rebellion in 1965, to convey the oppression Black people faced in white America

I believe there are people in State Government and bureaucracy who are quietly pleased with all those hicks in the RED counties getting burned-out … baby.

November 12, 2018 9:19 pm

“Predictions by some scientists are we’ve already gone up one degree…….”

You cant make this stuff up. Predictions about the past, and the expect to be taken seriously.

M Courtney
Reply to  yarpos
November 13, 2018 12:05 am

Predictions about the past are not climatology.
Because they are verifiable.

Reply to  yarpos
November 13, 2018 1:07 am

So what is normal climate? If we look at the last 100,000 years much colder with a mile of ice on top of Canada was the ‘normal’. If we think of the last 500 million years much warmer with No ice on the poles was the ‘normal’ So the climate we have enjoyed during the last 10,000 years is the NOT normal climate.

John M Ware
Reply to  Robertvd
November 13, 2018 3:10 am

Climate doesn’t have “normal.” It has averages, means, or other ways to express typical past weather. “Normal” refers to something with a quantifiable norm, or statement of what should be or what has been observed to be optimum for a certain situation: Normal human body temperature is 98.6, from which deviations of more than a few degrees up or down can kill you. Normal eyesight is 20/20, or seeing objects at 20-foot distance as though they are really at 20 feet away. Weather doesn’t have figures like that. Average rainfall per day here in central Virginia is about a tenth of an inch, but that doesn’t make a rainless day (or one with, say, an inch of rain) abnormal.

James Hall
Reply to  John M Ware
November 13, 2018 7:06 am

How true, John! One might also add that the only thing “constant” about the Earth’s climate is that it has been constantly changing since the atmosphere first formed a few billion years ago.

Loren Wilson
Reply to  John M Ware
November 13, 2018 7:18 am

And those averages are not particularly meaningful. You can take the average of an approximately cyclical behavior but it does not help you establish a trend. The average of a sine wave is not useful in the scale of one cycle.

DD More
Reply to  Robertvd
November 13, 2018 9:35 am

Rob – as Willis said “There’s a name for this, and it is not “climate change”—it’s called “weather”.

We can cut your time line down a bit, and see how much change there has been in ‘California Climate”.
Here is the map with Major Köppen type showing a change at least once in 30 years during the period 1901-2010.
Rough count because state boarder’s not shown is 9 on a 0.5 deg Lat/Lng resolution. But what we don’t know is if those were all After 1950.

November 12, 2018 9:52 pm

“The Pacific Gas & Electric utility company told a Northern California woman that power lines were causing sparks on her property the day before the deadliest blaze in the Golden State’s history destroyed the nearby town of Paradise, The Associated Press reported Monday.”

“PG&E has previously disclosed that it experienced a problem on an electrical transmission line near the site of the fire minutes before the blaze broke out. In a Friday filing to California’s Public Utilities Commission, it said it had detected an outage on an electrical transmission line near the site of the blaze. It said a subsequent aerial inspection detected damage to a transmission tower on the line.”

“PG&E had announced before the blaze started that it might shut down power in nine counties, including Butte County where Pulga and Paradise are, because of extreme fire danger. But it never did. On Thursday, the company said it had decided against a power cut because weather conditions did not warrant it.”

Donald Kasper
Reply to  Toto
November 12, 2018 10:38 pm

Microclimate is not predictable.

November 12, 2018 9:52 pm

Good Thanksgiving (11/23) conversation starter! Thanks Willis!

Linda Goodman
November 12, 2018 9:55 pm

And don’t forget the manufactured drought to ‘save the delta smelt’.

November 12, 2018 9:56 pm

Sorry, Thanksgiving is 11/22!

November 12, 2018 10:04 pm

See details at his blog.

“And I won’t get into the global warming aspects of this event (which I believe are quite minor). If I talk about global warming having minor impacts, I get very threatening emails and folks try to get me kicked off the local public radio station in which I talk each week.”

Reply to  Toto
November 13, 2018 3:49 am

Nice Blog Toto

Reply to  Toto
November 13, 2018 10:51 am

Wow! Well THATS the smoking gun isn’t it! What a beautifully constructed presentation. There is NO DOUBT that PG&E started the Camp Fire. I can’t WAIT for the lawsuits to elevate my energy rates even HIGHER$$$

However …

Don’t BLAME PG&E … because they’ve been WARNING us all about global warming and catastrophic sudden climate change for years on end now … and have deployed huge proportions of their massive resources $$$ into … eco-consultants, and eco-associates. Aided, of course, by the CPUC

John F. Hultquist
November 12, 2018 10:10 pm

Thanks Willis — nicely done.
I’ll add:
A study a few years ago showed that >80% of fires are related to humans.
This is not to say a direct human cause such as a camp fire, or someone burning brush,
but more often it is a 2nd or 3rd degree of separation. Our area gets one or a couple of fires
each year from autos catching fire. The driver pulls to the side of the road and catches grass on fire.
Other causes are such things as poor extension cords, or used in the wrong place, or not the
correct size. Backyard grills, chimneys, . . . and on and on, are causes.
I spent some time today using Google Earth Street View to look at the housing near Paradise.
Why? Well, three years ago two of our county fire crew came by. We walked around and they pointed out things I should change — some easy, some hard. I said I’d get the easy things done before the next fire season. Okay, they said, we’ll mark your place as “enter”. They motioned to our neighbor’s over-grown place and said, she’s a “don’t enter.”
Most of the housing I just looked at around Paradise would have gotten a “don’t enter” mark.
I’m still working to “firewise” our place; a continuing process.
Seeing a fire-consumed home, not even one’s own, brings tears to my eyes.

California is a grand place. Unfortunately you have Brown and others like him, and we have Jay Inslee.

[I’ve used the WRCC site for years — teaching intro to weather and climate.]

Reply to  John F. Hultquist
November 13, 2018 5:59 am

Would love to hear what it takes to “firewise” a home (both difficult and easy). Maybe you could make some comments here, or possibly do an article for WUWT. I look at the nature of the building destruction in Paradise (houses gone, nothing else touched) and am simply appalled. The only things I can think that are able to cause such damage is close proximity radiant heat from nearby burning structures and embers driven by high winds (cars parked abandoned on the side of the road are another matter).

I would suspect that there are things that can be done to minimize those risks. For example, metal roofs, minimum house spacing, radiant heat buffers between homes (e.g, cinder block wall), radiant shields on windows (in FL we had hurricane shutters for the windows and removable panels for the doors and patio), etc.

Reply to  icisil
November 13, 2018 7:57 am

Salute icisil!

Our summer cabin is in a heavily forested portion of Pike National Forest, and we had Colorado’s largest fire back in 2002 ( Hayman), since eclipsed this past summer. The Forest Service folks commented at the time that trimming/thining restrictions had made the scope of the fire inevitable. Granted, much of the area was characterized by steep canyons or valleys and poor roads and ….. But we still lost many cabins and other structures that might have been saved.

We had great lectures about mitigation if we wished to attend the briefings. There are a few concepts which seem to apply across forests, vegetative species and human development in the forest or even suburban areas ( see Waldo Canyon disaster in Colorado Springs a few years back in “Mountain Shadows”.)

– No wooden shingles!!! Metal roofs rule!!
– Avoid wooden siding and go with other materials
– Don’t cram structures close together unless you consider the cluster as one unit ( I call it the cluster rule)
– Thin out your trees so the crown fires have a harder time. So no trees right up next to each other unless you count them as one “unit”. I cut down 15 – 20 trees the next spring after Hayman fire.
– No trees real close to your cabin, otherwise the “cluster rule” applies. Our local agent says if the tree is within 20 feet or so, then it is considered part of the house
– No firewood stacked up within 20 or 30 feet of the cabin

And more hints at the link:

If you live in an area that could have a fire, have your “go bag” ready, at least a half tank of gas all the time, a pre-determined escape route and renzezvous point for family and neighbors, and pay attention to the weather and county news. We have reverse 911, and a satellite internet because we do not have cable or cell phone or even DSL landline, but we have a reliable landline.

Gums sends…

Ken L
Reply to  Gums
November 13, 2018 6:18 pm

That sounds very analogous to the sort of disaster preparedness measures recommended in Tornado Alley or in hurricane prone coastlines across the southeastern US. And the single most important factor linking any uptick in devastation and loss of life from all types of natural disasters? More people living in harm’s way.

Reply to  icisil
November 13, 2018 9:55 am

From a 2014 California fire notice sent to homeowners:

Fire once played its natural role in California, keeping vegetation thinned out and healthy,
which in turn kept fires small and beneficial. As humans moved into wildland areas and began suppressing all fires, vegetation increased to the dangerously overgrown levels we see now, resulting in extremely destructive wildfires. To maintain the safety of our homes, families, firefighters,community, and natural resources, we must replicate fire’s traditional role by removing the excess vegetation around our homes and neighborhoods.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  icisil
November 13, 2018 10:03 am

Firewise is the name of a program, along with “fire adapted communities” that those with homes in the wildland – urban – interface (WUI; woo-e) should learn about. There are web sites and presentations. A couple of examples:. Look around your building. Wind will clean leaves from some spots and deposit them in others, so you have a little pile of fuel against your garage, say. Regularly, clean them up. A little more work is to remove the Arborvitae, or other fuel producers, from under your house’s overhangs. They are cute when first planted there, deadly after 10 years — look inside and behind them. Homes in the WUI often have real fireplaces: Don’t stack your firewood against the house or under your wood deck. Move the cutting and splitting place at least >50 feet from buildings.
The overhangs (soffits) have air vents, usually protected with 1/4 inch screens. These will suck glowing embers in — not good. Replace all these (a real pain) with a small size mesh screen. Take a look at the size of the fire trucks (often called mini-pumpers) that are common at fires. Make your driveway wide and clear for them. They will need a turn-around space and may want an exit, other than your regular driveway. They don’t want to use your just-watered lawn as an escape road. During a fire, lots of graveled landscape is your friend.
There are many more things. Contact your local folks for information and presentations. We’ve been to two of them. Videos, photos, and testimonials are well worth your time.

Donald Kasper
November 12, 2018 10:35 pm

If you lose property, part of the blame is litigation by the Sierra Club, National Resource Defense Council, Wildlife Fund, and other groups that blocked logging. I would think you would sue them for the consequences of their policies. If their legal action caused logging to stop or be curtailed, then they are liable for causing the magnitude of the fires seen.

November 12, 2018 11:13 pm

Willis asks :

“Can scientists actually predict the past? And can we really expect half a degree of warming in the next decade? To get some perspective on these questions, I thought I’d take a look at the records. I found an interesting site,”

So did I– here’s what Anthony Watts said six years ago:

“Personally, I think wildfire risk (especially in the USA) would be better predicted by observing ocean patterns (ENSO, PDO, AMO etc.) than trying to apply climate models. Further, it seems they are weighting 2012 as being too significant in the scheme of things. Also, I had to laugh at this statement:
In contrast with wildfires, agricultural and prescribed fires are less affected by climate, especially drought, during the fire season.
Gosh, “less affected” how about “not at all”? …
– Anthony “

Fergus Mclean
November 12, 2018 11:21 pm

Data on the effect of thinning on subsequent fires is mixed. Little can be done when moisture falls below 10%. Some studies show young plantations have higher fire risk….

Willis, your link to evidence for logging restrictions seems to be dead.

November 12, 2018 11:46 pm

Nobody ever mentions that the sun itself is slowly getting warmer.

Ah, well.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 13, 2018 8:38 am

1% over the last 100 million years, or something in that range.

Curious George
Reply to  MarkW
November 13, 2018 10:07 am

I remember it vividly!

Reply to  Richard111
November 13, 2018 6:17 am

Which sun are you talking about?
The nearest one is on a Solar Minimum.

Malcolm andrew bryer
November 13, 2018 12:14 am

Such is the effect of constant warming propaganda in the media. Goebbels would be proud.

Peter Stevenson
November 13, 2018 12:28 am

Presumably most of the homes destroyed in the fires were built at least partly with wood. Why don’t they build with bricks /concrete ? Where I live in Southern Spain I have witnessed severe fires leave houses built with brick virtually untouched

Reply to  Peter Stevenson
November 13, 2018 2:34 am

Peter Stevenson

Cost, speed of build, material availability, cost, tradition, skills availability, cost, insulation properties and of course, cost.

And by the looks of the current fire, there would be little left of a masonry building other than a shell as combustible materials are used for roofs, doors and windows etc. allowing fire to spread within to wooden floors, joists, fixtures and fittings etc.

Both masonry and timber buildings can be rebuilt of course, but we come back to that old chestnut of…..cost.

Reply to  HotScot
November 13, 2018 8:40 am

If the fire gets hot enough, it can damage masonry as well.

Reply to  MarkW
November 13, 2018 1:59 pm

Reinforcing rods (rebar) inside concrete and masonry gets so hot and expands… that the concrete/masonry ‘spalls’ and renders the wall … destroyed. I have seen fires that left little more than a melted pool of aluminum and black smudges where the engine block and tires used to stand. But if you have the mentality of a “truther” like Rosie O’Donnell … then you might believe steel is unaffected by fire.

Reply to  HotScot
November 13, 2018 11:47 am

Thank you. Always the voice of logic and reason.

Don K
Reply to  Peter Stevenson
November 13, 2018 2:41 am

“Why don’t they build with bricks /concrete ?”

Earthquakes. Wood frame structures and their inhabitants have a high survival rate in quakes. Masonry doesn’t. In a region where there is a substantial chance that you will someday find yourself wearing parts of your house, you don’t want a lot of heavy stuff up in the air above your head. California banned unreinforced masonry construction after an earthquake in 1933 that damaged hundreds of school buildings many of them severely.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Don K
November 13, 2018 3:52 am

STEEL REINFORCED CONCRETE. That should be the only method of construction in fire prone areas and that would cover the quake issue too.

Reply to  AGW is not Science
November 13, 2018 5:56 am

The radiant heat from intense fires will damage the concrete and set interior contents on fire, turning the structure into an oven, roasting anything inside.

Reply to  hunter
November 13, 2018 6:09 am

Intense fires are caused by heavy fuel load and proximity of same. Reduce those and radiant heat shouldn’t cause that kind of problem.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  hunter
November 13, 2018 12:14 pm

A comma after ‘concrete’ is advised.
The radiant heat goes inside via the windows. A house needs fire resistant window covers, not the cute and funny little things often seen for decoration.
Folks with a good view like lots of window. Needs about 100 feet of gravel landscape.

Hank Bradley
Reply to  hunter
November 18, 2018 6:59 am

If you travel through old towns in the Mother Lode part of CA, you’ll see masonry buildings with steel shutters at each window. Even 150 years ago they knew to block the radiant heat. There was a building in San Francisco in the early 1850s made of some newfangled stuff called ‘concrete’, and its owners and employees rode out one of the fires that periodically obliterated SF buildings by closing the steel shutters and bailing water from an interior well to cool them.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Peter Stevenson
November 13, 2018 8:41 am


Many of the people living in and around Paradise are retired people living on reduced, fixed incomes. They don’t have the luxury of building fire resistant dwellings. They moved there because of a lower cost of living. Indeed, many of them lived in so-called mobile homes and older, poorly constructed wood-frame homes that predated modern building codes. There is little excuse for the commercial buildings burning down, except for building cheaply and inadequate building codes. Most of them probably had flat roofs (little snow to contend with) sealed with asphalt, and no rooftop sprinklers.

Fires were so common in the mining camps of the Mother Lode that the building practice became one of building with brick or native stone, with slate or iron roofs, and iron doors and iron shutters, particularly for commercial and public buildings. Earthquakes are less of a problem away from the coast.

November 13, 2018 2:11 am

I am intrigued to know how it is that I can cause forest fires just by not believing in man made climate change. What exactly is the mechanism for this? Is it like the way we revive Tinkerbell by believing in fairies really really hard? Oh no, that can’t be it because that would mean that the believers are causing it.

James Clarke
Reply to  Stonyground
November 13, 2018 5:30 am

Thank you, Stonyground! It boggles my mind that no one in the media calls the governor on these idiotic, childish comments.

No single person on the planet has more responsibility for the California wildfire problem than Governor Brown, but like all tyrants when their policies invariably go to excrement, they blame those who opposed them. I believe their insane arguments go like this:

Their solutions are perfect and infallible. But if someone opposes them in any way, then they will not be implemented in the precise way that is necessary for them to work. Climate crisis skeptics have prevented Brown and his delusional buddies from making the ‘climate’ perfect again (as if it ever was), simply by not getting on board and being enthusiastic enough. Crisis skeptics have sewed seeds of doubt, making it impossible for their flawless plans to be implemented flawlessly. So it must be the fault of crisis skeptics, you see!”

Brown would have fixed the climate by now, if it wasn’t for us meddling skeptics!

Judy Nolen
November 13, 2018 2:19 am

I feel very heart sick for all the lives lost to the fires they can never be replaced,houses can be rebuilt,forest will grow back in time a lot of wildlife’s habitats where lost,but still human lives should always come first. Maybe environmental groups could work with fire pron states for a happy medium.There are 27,000 fire dept. In the U.S. if 2 firemen volunteered from each station to be trained to fight forest fires that would be about 50,000 more firefighters to fight these giant fires.If we are going to have giant fires then we need a giant force of fire fighters,l don’t mean to train them as smoke jumpers as that takes excess training and they usually work for the Park service. Wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t have 2 work 24 hrs.straight wetlands could be expanded in some areas and retention ponds built where there are no fire hydrants.Fire lanes need to be made so fire trucks could reach fires before they are out of control. Judy

Reply to  Judy Nolen
November 13, 2018 11:02 am

Exactly. We need to deploy “rapid response” teams throughout the INEVITABLE urban-wildland interface. The Urban-wildland interface isn’t going away … so shut up about that, unless you want to LIMIT the population of the State. We need to get a shitload SMARTER about suppressing these conflagrations before they get started … which includes controlled burns, if necessary.

Ron Long
November 13, 2018 2:26 am

Every time I hear an announcement from Governor Moonbeam I think of Star Trek: beam me up Scotty, there is no intelligent life on this planet.

Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 2:37 am

US sceptics are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think climate change is not contributing to these fires . These fires are now more extreme, the period in which they occur is getting longer, there is less snow to keep the soil moist, and there is an increase in drought periods. Trees, especially pine trees planted within or close to towns and settlements, do contribute but are just one piece in the puzzle. California has always had wildfires but nothinhg like the severity of these like the recent Camp fire:

ferd berple
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 3:10 am

Kalifornia has more people today than in the past. As a result smaller fires can do more damage.

One should also note that as kalifornias population increases this means that there are more and more morons living in the state. All caused by global warming.

Ivan Kinsman
Reply to  ferd berple
November 13, 2018 3:23 am

Keep up moronic comments like these. They achieve … zero.

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 8:46 am

Self awareness is an art that few trolls can master.

John Law
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 3:19 am

I suggest you read the post above by Willis and look at the charts.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 3:32 am

Nice claims Ivan. Can you please provide trend plots to back them up like Willis did in this article? Maybe your trend plots would show it’s CO2’s fault and has nothing to do with fuel load and ignition source (also man-caused). I have yet to see convening data plots that correlate tide gauge sea level rise with CO2 and tropospheric temperate rise with CO2.

Ivan Kinsman
Reply to  Farmer Ch E retired
November 13, 2018 3:45 am

Everything I have written was the comments of a wildfire expert from a British university speaking at a wildfire conference in Portugal. What are your qualifications?

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 4:07 am

No links, Ivan.
Get them translated from the Russian please.
Also, one expert is clearly not sufficient. Come on, you are a climate troll- you know it takes a simple majority if sciencey experts to have credibility.

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 4:32 am

Ivan Kinsman

A wildfire expert is an expert in wildfires, not climate. Nor do you provide a name nor a reference of any description.

Your BBC article includes “The state’s 40-million-strong population also helps explain the fires’ deadliness. That number is almost double what it was in the 1970s, and people are living closer to at-risk forest areas.” Confirming ferd berple’s comment, but that seemingly went over your head.

The only reference to climate change is the usual BBC’s casual acknowledgement of the party line backed up by no data “And then there’s climate change. Recent years have produced record-breaking temperatures, earlier springs, and less reliable rainfall.

And from your post “……..there is less snow to keep the soil moist.

My understanding is that unless subjected to very rapid weather change from cold to hot, most snow evaporates into the atmosphere with gently warming winds, leaving a bare minimum to actually melt. Paradise itself gets an average annual snowfall of between 2.5cm and 3cm with annual precipitation of ~1476mm. Snow is inconsequential in terms of irrigation.

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 8:48 am

So Ivansky, your expert trumps all other experts?
It must be nice never having to think for yourself.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 1:07 pm

Ivan – My only qualification is I know how to look at and interpret data. I learned how to learn obtaining my Masters of Science at Rice U (paid for by NASA). Most all of my real learning took place on-the-job in the environmental field. Last time I checked my resume was 27 pages including hundreds of technical reports, 70 publications, with my name included on 10 patents. Granted I’m not a “climate scientist” whatever that means but it should help you understand why I’m asking to see supporting data for your claims.

Gary Mount
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 3:47 am

US skeptics are some of the worlds best climate scientists.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 4:01 am

Quoting the BBC, that is the way to convince us.
Stating the comments come from a UK University Fire-expert just compounds the problem.

Reply to  A C Osborn
November 13, 2018 8:49 am

He usually quotes the Granuidad

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 4:04 am

Thanks for playing but no rubles for you today.
You know nothing of American history.
And you know less if forestry management.
And apparently even less about climate.
Have a great day.

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 6:14 am

My great uncle was a wildfire fireman, and he told stories about some of the fires he fought. Of course back in the 60s most of these fires were in areas with very few people, so the strategy was to cut fire breaks and light backfires when the conditions were right, very rarely were they trying to save structures or whole towns. When 50 mph winds are blowing, fires blow up like a bomb and always have. The deadliness and dollar figures of damage are mostly from the encroachment of civilization on what has traditionally been empty space. Just like with the hurricane figures, when you adjust for the development, there is little to no change.

The BBC ceased to be relevant to climate change discussions years ago. If you show one of their “presenters” (I refuse to dignify them with the term journalist) data refuting the latest talking point, they stick their fingers in their ears and yell “la la la la la” until you go away in disgust. Of course the US press is just as bad. It is a shame really, I used to enjoy some of the events reporting on the World Service. Now even that has been polluted with the “how can we shoehorn climate change into this story” disease.

Archaeological evidence has shown that during the 700 year drought, large swaths of California burned. It is part of the reason the Spanish found few people in California when they colonized it. The tribes had moved far north in the territory because that was where the water was. Only a few stayed farther south on the coast where the rivers still flowed from the Sierras to the sea. Human settlements need a source of food and water to stay viable. If they had tried colonizing around 800AD, they might have met resistance.

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 7:06 am

More falsehoods and fakery from ivank.

“Ivan Kinsman November 13, 2018 at 2:37 am
US sceptics are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think climate change is not contributing to these fires . These fires are now more extreme, the period in which they occur is getting longer, there is less snow to keep the soil moist, and there is an increase in drought periods. Trees, especially pine trees planted within or close to towns and settlements”

Cloud cuckoo land, a truly pathetic attempt at an adolescent insult, is reserved for lamebrains who invent falsehoods while spreading faux fears.
ivank makes claims, in spite of evidence to the contrary. Instead ivank relies upon logical falsehoods for it’s argument.

“These fires are now more extreme”, Utter BS and historically proven wrong.

“the period in which they occur is getting longer”, More BS.

“there is less snow to keep the soil moist”, Utter BS and proven wrong by history.

“and there is an increase in drought periods”, Utter BS, historically, droughts have been much worse and far longer.

“Trees, especially pine trees planted within or close to towns and settlements, do contribute but are just one piece in the puzzle”, Landscaping planted by residents are a resident’s personal choice. Failure to clear flammables away from the property is also a personal failure common to California residents.

“California has always had wildfires but nothinhg{sic} like the severity of these like the recent Camp fire”, another Utter BS invention by ivank.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 7:16 am

Ivan, that is perhaps one of the more ignorant comments on the California fires not said by a California politician. Your history is bass-ackwards, and the Beeb are as much True Believers as Jerry Brown.
Blaming the fires on CO2 levels is about as constructive, and accurate, as a fundamentalist blaming God’s wrath for the states open sinning.

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 7:44 am

Here you go Ivan,

Drought And Fire Are The Normal Climate Of California

You ignored several factors that caused massive fires, if you bothered to read what Willis pointed out, that FUEL LOADS were a few decades in the making.

CO2 has NOTHING to do with it!

bit chilly
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 7:47 am

i knew at least one of the idiots that voted for moonbeam would make an appearance.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 8:30 am


It seems that you know little about California. Basically, most of the state experiences what is called a Mediterranean Climate. That means it really only has two seasons: a cool, wet Winter and a hot, dry Summer. Every year the grasslands turn brown about the first of May and stay that way until the rains start in November. It matters little how much moisture is in the ground, unless there is so little that the trees die, because it isn’t the ground that burns. There are many areas that get over 100 deg F in the summertime for several days. Even if the ground is damp, the vegetation (which is adapted to such extreme temperatures) often becomes senescent. One commonly sees horse chestnut trees with brown leaves in July.

Archaeologists have documented megadroughts, particularly in southern California, in the past. So, even droughts are nothing new to California.

It rarely snows below about 2,000′ elevation, and that doesn’t stay on the ground for long. It is only above about 5,000 feet where a snow pack accumulates and might experience changes in Summer soil moisture with warming. So, your claim is not germane. The recent Camp Fire took place in rugged terrain that ranged in elevation from about 2,500′ down to about 1,500′, well outside the area of accumulating snow pack.

You are simply parroting things you have read, written by people who don’t really know what they are talking about.

With regard to the severity of the Camp Fire, the trees are scorched, but it is the human structures that are totally destroyed. That is probably because the buildings and cars are less resistant to fire than the natural vegetation is. People didn’t plant the pine trees, they moved in among them.

You are the one “living in cloud cuckoo land!”

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 8:46 am

As always, the trolls can be counted on to trot out lie after lie.
1) While unprecedented over the last few decades, there have been bigger fires in the past. That’s lie 1.
2) Snow levels go up, snow levels go down. If you are capable of remembering past the last decade or two, there is nothing unusual in snow levels. That’s lie 2.
3) Modern droughts are pikers compared to the droughts of 1000 years ago. That’s lie 3.
4) Pine trees aren’t being planted. They occur naturally, that’s why they call it a forest. That’s lie 4.
5) Repeating a previous lie is still a lie. That’s lie 5.
6) Of course the troll completely ignores the roll of government in fighting fires in the past, allowing fuel levels to build up. Lie by omission makes number 6.

Reply to  MarkW
November 13, 2018 11:14 am


I bet Ivan really wishes he hadn’t said anything.

Lambasted by about ten people in succession…….What a laugh.

Reply to  HotScot
November 13, 2018 1:35 pm

Lambasted is the action … the result is that Ivan got DESTROYED.

Richard G.
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 3:38 pm

In pre-colombian California the native people ( in this case the Maidu, Yana, and Konkow in the Paradise area) subsisted on acorns from the oak/conifer forest. They managed the landscape by periodic burning to keep the under story open. This protected the oaks from intense fires and facilitated harvest of acorns.
Current fire wise land management should include seasonal grazing with sheep and goats to manage the fuel loads. It is amazing how a herd of ‘range maggots’ can clear out the undergrowth as they graze through.
John Muir, one of the original conservationists, was a sheep herder in his youth.

Russ Wood
November 13, 2018 2:52 am

I noticed on a satellite picture of the fire that it’s covered the area above the Oroville Dam. I’m wondering if this extensive loss of ground cover is liable to bring yet MORE troubles to that dam in the next rainy season, as there may be little to absorb the rain.

Reply to  Russ Wood
November 13, 2018 4:11 am

The greens are destroying California.
The extremists are, as the last two Governor demonstrate so well, operating at a medieval superstitious level of thinking.
The Californian implosion could end up with concentration camps for political dissidents and I would not be surprised.

Greg S.
Reply to  Russ Wood
November 13, 2018 6:04 am

The main spillway and emergency spillway have been completely re-engineered and rebuilt. The main spillway is currently ready for full operation. It’s highly unlikely that the dam will experience a failure like it had before. Massive outflows however could cause extensive damage down river.

November 13, 2018 3:06 am

Man has caused these massive annual forest fires in the west due to drought–not by carbon usage, but by shunning the fact the atmosphere is composed of the same energy as us. Like us, it negatively affected by man-made electromagnetic energy, especially high-frequency and nuclear. The atmosphere and all space are filled with cosmic energy, which is the basis for all movement and matter (including weather systems) known as aether or orgone. It is mostly invisible and mass less, but at the same time interacts with everything to varying degrees–think of neutrinos and gravity.

Electrical radiation overexcites the atmosphere, ushering in drought conditions as it is “stuck” in an over expanded state, which does not allow contraction and forming of heavy rain clouds. Further, these thin, dirty looking clouds (smog) are water vapor lacking and as such, absorb water in huge quantities, much like an expanding desert “creeps” over lush land and dries it out. Take California for instance, it has the most stringent pollution controls for industry and cars, but the skies are continuously polluted with a “haze/smog.” How can this be? It is not carbon, but the insane drive for faster, more exotic and dangerous forms of electromagnetism, just to fill the empty desert in man. In summary, including the insane tyrannical government “carbon cap” rules, and the prohibition of intelligent land-management, man squares the shoulder for these fires, much like everything else he is scared to look at.

Reply to  alfred
November 13, 2018 1:50 pm


Don K
November 13, 2018 3:13 am

Willis — it’s probably a mistake to conflate forest management practices in Southern California coastal areas with those further North. The problem is that the “forest” there isn’t much of a forest. Except for a few valley floors where there are sycamores, it’s a “woodland” with California live oak, thorny brush of various sorts, poison oak, and various other stuff — most of it hostile. And although live oak can grow into a respectable tree, in places like the Santa Monica Mountains (“Malibu”) it doesn’t. I can’t recall ever seeing one much taller than 20 or 25 feet.

In theory, folks who chose to live there should clear all the brush for a considerable distance around their dwelling. 100 feet seems to be recommended. And they should be very careful about planting flammable exotics like eucalyptus. In practice, they may not own/control much of the area around their house. And some of it may not be accessible. And clearing it is hard work. And expensive. And the result is ugly. And the stuff grows back.

Personally, nothing in the world other than maybe a working Gold mine in the basement could cause me to own a rural property in Southern California.

In my youth, I spent some time in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Real woods there and a different set of problems. And I’ve also spent some time in the Sierra Nevada. Yet another set of problems there. I don’t recall a lot of underbrush issues there.but that was long ago and maybe things have changed. The problem there would be that dry pine trees burn. Always have. Presumably always will.

Allan MacRae
November 13, 2018 3:41 am

Good post Willis, thank you.

I posted this earlier today on another thread:

From Marc Morano
“Gov. Brown blames climate ‘deniers’ for worsening wildfires – Scientific evidence refutes him: ‘Less fire today than centuries ago’ – Wildfires are NOT due to ‘climate change’”

Jerry Brown has again made one of the truly stupidest statements in the long history of humanity.

Unless someone is referring to the last Ice Age, saying “I blame climate change” puts them in the lower decile of human intelligence.

Incompetent forestry management was the cause of this wildfire disaster Jerry – it was your fault!

November 13, 2018 3:50 am

There is one confounding factor that can be attributed to CO2, more efficient use of water in the growing season. If global greening can be ascribed to carbon dioxide, so can a small increase in fuel load in dry fire zones. While it’s probably a secondary effect, it exacerbates the issues created by lack of forest management.
I am also struck by how many of the most devestating fires are caused be sparking power lines. You might be able to argue that hundreds of square miles of forest land consumed by fire would justify the use of cap and trade funds to harden or bury power lines. Interestingly there are several warnings of power line problems in the area where the Camp fire started near Pie Dam and a conscious decision not to shut down power in the area because winds were not for predicted to be strong enough to justify it. One of the consequences of reliance on wind and solar is (plus hydro near Paradise) Is that generation is rural but used in urban areas meaning the power line issues get worse if not resolved. But hardening of the grid is just a way to buy time while forest management issues get resolved.

André van Delft
November 13, 2018 3:57 am

The risen atmospheric CO2 is relatively healthy for plants. They grow faster so the fuel load accumulates faster. Forest management should adapt.

Sam The First
November 13, 2018 4:05 am

There was a good article on the Forbes Magazine website a couple of days ago, which I have shared widely on FB, including on Anthony’s page. It goes a long way, although quite brief, to explain how human activity and the lack of it has caused these increasingly destructive fires in CA.

John the Econ
November 13, 2018 4:11 am

If only the stingy voters had approved more money for that high-speed train between Pixley and Hooterville, it would have been done by now and none of this would have happened.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  John the Econ
November 13, 2018 5:32 am

I suppose you owned the land between the towns and are just mad you didn’t get to sell it, isn’t that right Mr Haney?

John the Econ
Reply to  Tom in Florida
November 13, 2018 10:11 am

Got me. My retirement in California is costing far more than I had anticipated.

November 13, 2018 4:14 am

Off piste but fun-


November 13, 2018 4:15 am

There is a chance for an increase in humidity in northern California.
comment image

Michael Ozanne
November 13, 2018 4:16 am

“Should President Trump have been so aggro? Of course not, that was a mistake … but I can understand his anger, given that Governor Brown is claiming that the fires have nothing to do with California regulations.”

There are some points raised here:

which are slanted, but not entirely, on brief reading, hysterical….

Reply to  Michael Ozanne
November 13, 2018 5:12 am

The president is likely a tad annoyed at the Governor for trying to set national policy-

“This IPCC report makes unmistakably clear that the world must radically change. It must decarbonize and establish a totally renewable basis for all economic activity. The big powers – the United States, China, India and the European Union – must show the way. We can do it but only if the deniers, the skeptics and the comfortable wake up to what the scientists are telling us.”

I was pleased to see that the governor added the phase “comfortable” to the post.

Michael Ozanne
Reply to  kakatoa
November 13, 2018 7:07 am

So you can engage in as much ecological destruction as you like as long as you are “uncomfortable”

I have the feeling that when Mr Brown says “comfortable” he means “taxable”

Reply to  Michael Ozanne
November 13, 2018 12:59 pm

Governor Brown had zero problem blaming Trump. So Trump’s not allowed to actually counter the lie? Interesting.

November 13, 2018 4:26 am

Steve McIntyre referenced (on twitter) a paper that brings into question the attribution, of the fire(s)-

“with California wildfires in news, climate scientists cynically give false attribution of wildfires to “climate change” e.g @AndrewDessler. True story e.g Stephens &c 2007, “Prehistoric fire area and emissions from California’s forests,…” is opposite …”

November 13, 2018 4:31 am

Dear Jerry Brown, according to you all “deniers” contribute to the fires in California. Contributing to massive destruction and death is against the law. I am what you call a “denier”. Please indict me and have a warrant issued for my arrest. I expect to be arrested NEVER because you know everything you said was a lie.

Have a nice day.

November 13, 2018 4:38 am

Is dead wood an issue here? Before “greens” were created dead wood was probably cleared by people concerned about fires, wild ones and their own, but now the concern is for the critters who need the dead wood for habitat.

Ivan Kinsman
Reply to  climanrecon
November 13, 2018 5:20 am

Bollocks. Stop coming up with such garbage.

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 5:53 am

With every post you confirm more clearly that you understand much less than you think you do.
You are only a mediocre troll, and not at all informed or convincing.
But on the bright side your mindless spew does get less extreme true believers to doubt the dogma you so ignorantly parrot, so please do continue.

Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 8:54 am

It’s completely true. If you had actually studied the issue instead of spending your time worshiping the AGW idols, you might have managed to learn something.

Gary Mount
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 14, 2018 2:54 am

I clearly remember my local governments (Metro Vancouver, B.C.) plan to spend millions of dollars laying down wood (logs, stumps) for habitat, but the great wind storm of 2006 did the job naturally. Thousands of trees in Stanley Park alone fell. My local park a block away didn’t have its trails reopened until about a year and a half after the event.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  climanrecon
November 13, 2018 8:57 am


Actually, in the late 19th C, the forests were significantly thinned to provide lumber for building and timbering in the numerous active mines. Sutter’s Mill (the site of the first discovery of gold in northern California) was built to take advantage of water power and the abundant trees to supply lumber for the growing Sacramento.

People largely depended on wood for heating and dead wood was scavenged for tinder, when it was available.

Ivan is one of those people who thinks he knows everything, but only ‘knows’ what he reads in the MSM, which is written by other urbanites who know little about the real world.

November 13, 2018 4:41 am

By ‘adaptation’ does the governor mean confiscating all the private land and forcing people to live in cities rather than forests? Because that’s what it will take to avoid the destruction of so many homes.

Reply to  Gary
November 13, 2018 5:06 am

His successor, an accomplished expert in abusing the law, is most certainly considering just that.

November 13, 2018 5:02 am

California is leading the way to the recreation of the thinking that ends with witch burnings.

November 13, 2018 5:32 am

Temperature in the US in the morning on November 13, 2018.
comment image

Steven Mosher
November 13, 2018 5:32 am


It helps to untangle various questions.

Chic Bowdrie
Reply to  Steven Mosher
November 13, 2018 6:51 am

I’m not clear on what your link is untangling. Rhode’s data indicates that fires become more prevalent as weather becomes hotter and dryer. In California, fire-season weather has been generally hotter and dryer of late. It makes sense that hotter and dryer would result in larger and more destructive fires. One could describe this as normal local climate change. It doesn’t address the question of what causes the change.

Reply to  Chic Bowdrie
November 13, 2018 7:12 am

Dry and very cold air reaches California.
comment image

Steven Mosher
Reply to  Chic Bowdrie
November 13, 2018 7:13 pm

“In California, fire-season weather has been generally hotter and dryer of late. It makes sense that hotter and dryer would result in larger and more destructive fires.”

Most skeptics would disagree with this, if I said it.

Oh, AGW predicts that over time dryer places will get dryer and hotter places will get hotter.

and, un remarkably we can expect fires to get worse– all other things being equal

Chic Bowdrie
Reply to  Steven Mosher
November 14, 2018 8:53 am

“Most skeptics would disagree with this, if I said it.”

I don’t see why. Regardless of how global temperatures–or more specifically CA temperatures–got to where they are, the effects of hotter and dryer should be worse than colder and wetter. If anyone disagrees, please enlighten us.

The correlation between AGW predictions and temperature and rainfall trends is extremely weak given all the possible natural causes that conflate the data. Willis has eloquently illustrated that here showing century long trends arguably insensitive to CO2 concentration.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Chic Bowdrie
November 14, 2018 8:42 am

The very high winds are what turned these Calfornia fires into conflagurations. Without the winds, there would be no firestorms.

The cause is a high-pressure weather system pushing high winds into California, Governor Brown, not CO2 and climate change.

November 13, 2018 5:48 am

Excellent synopsis of many longer papers, Willis. This post likely will need to be dusted off and republished every dry year, for this situation seems to repeat. Will people ever learn?

Irony is that the drought in California seems to go hand in hand with drenching in the east, and heat in the west with the east’s coldest winters. When it burns in California I remember the winter of 1976-1977 and stock up on firewood in New Hampshire.

November 13, 2018 5:56 am

Does anyone know if the global warming satellites can see and count forest fires or other point sources of heat for that matter? Or are the fires just too small to move the needle.

November 13, 2018 6:31 am

How many times during the last few millenniums has wildfires rage down those canyons but there was little or no human built structures in the way?

Gov Brown may not want the “new abnormal” to revert to the “historical normal.” The historical normal contains multi century droughts and the last 170 years have been wetter than the historical normal.

November 13, 2018 6:32 am

Realistically, it doesn’t matter how hot or dry it is. If there’s no fuel load there will be no fire. Minimize that on both developed and undeveloped land and fires will also be minimized. California has always had hot, dry weather spells with severe winds. Designing, building and managing to accommodate those realities will provide better results than trying to impose modern expectations/needs upon nature. The primitive Indians understood what modern man kicks against.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  icisil
November 13, 2018 9:08 am

There also needs to be an ignition source. In recent years there has been a lot of arson. Also, what isn’t getting a lot of media attention is that PG&E (look up the stock prices) is taking ‘heat’ for starting fires. It seems that the transmission-line practices of the past may not be appropriate for today as PG&E attempts to meet the needs of a burgeoning population. Savvy investors are on top of the PG&E situation, but the media seems to be largely ignoring the culpability of the utility companies.

steve case
November 13, 2018 6:49 am

President Trump needs to haul his Secretary of Agriculture into his office and tell him to fix the mismanagement of federal forests throughout California and the country so that populated areas are much less exposed to these disasters. He can get some of the funds to do this from the over $2 Billion spent on climate change bullshit.

The feds could withhold federal aid blackmail the states into managing their forests and writing zoning laws.

T Port
Reply to  steve case
November 13, 2018 9:33 am

The millions of Ponderosa pines that were killed by bark beetles as a direct result of the drought were obviously a big factor in the intensity of the Paradise fire. I believe the wood in those trees would likely have had enough value to have financed their cutting and removal and also to pay for a lot of reduction on the brush and kindling that got the fire going. Those trees were mostly on private land, but the State or the local community could have addressed the problem through legislation of by local ordinance. Hindsight is 20/20 , but at least let’s get rid of the dead trees across the West a.s.a.p. before another town burns next year. Sure, the little feathery and furry critters need a place to live, but people are dying.

Reply to  T Port
November 13, 2018 3:13 pm

When trees aren’t thinned by fire, the total number of trees per acre goes up rapidly.
As a result the trees begin to compete with each other for available water and other nutrients.
This exacerbates the impact of drought.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  MarkW
November 13, 2018 5:30 pm

And when the tree density increases, it makes it easier for the bark beetles to infest the nearby trees. So, it isn’t just a matter of drought as T Port suggests. Everything is interconnected.

November 13, 2018 7:00 am

It happens when lots of houses are close to trees and the weather conditions are ripe-

A 15 year old schoolgirl understood it a century ago-

November 13, 2018 7:00 am

Data for the San Francisco and Los Angeles rain shows cyclical pattern which on decadal scale are currently at the low ebb.
(LOD – variation in ‘length of day ‘ determined by rate of change in the Earth’s rotation)
SE Asian monsoon has identical 29 year periodicity.
IMO, it is the SE monsoons that are responsible for the LOD changes rather than the other way around (change in angular momentum by transfer of large mas of water from equatorial ocean to the north)

November 13, 2018 7:18 am

From the mountains to California arrives dry and cold air.
comment image

November 13, 2018 7:27 am

Thank you for this Willis, the Camelot climate Eden was appreciated and usually missed I had to read this to my husband. We are in a camper in Sanborn County Park, Saratoga, just over the hill from you, hoping there are no sparks in these woods!

November 13, 2018 7:44 am

If such low temperatures are now in the US, what will happen in the winter?

November 13, 2018 7:52 am

The animation below shows the increase in wind speed in southern California.

Roger Knights
November 13, 2018 7:52 am

Currently we’re importing enormous amounts of Canadian lumber. Why not ease logging restrictions on our West Coast and bring some of that spending back home.

Reply to  Roger Knights
November 13, 2018 7:59 am

Probably a long-term drought contributed to the fall of the Mayan cities.

Reply to  ren
November 13, 2018 10:09 am

That’s definitely the theory for the Pueblo culture

Reply to  OweninGA
November 13, 2018 10:27 am


Joel O’Bryan
November 13, 2018 7:56 am

The 1923 Berkeley Fire was a conflagration that consumed some 640 structures, including 584 homes in the densely-built neighborhoods north of the campus of the University of California in Berkeley, California on September 17, 1923.,_California_fire

Poor fire prevention 95 years ago too.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
November 13, 2018 9:43 am

Watch this silent newsreel clip from that Fire:

Looks a lot like what is happening now with Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire.

TheMagicMolecule™️ atmospheric concentration was 300 ppm.

But Moonbeam wants to blame ClimateDeniers for the fire. Blaming non-believers is just like any Voodoo Witchdoctor would do when the volcano is about to erupt.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 13, 2018 10:04 am

Here is an actual video of one of Governor MoonBeam’s inner circle witch doctors putting a curse on Climate Change non-believers.

November 13, 2018 8:02 am

Feel the Burn: To Avoid Year-Round Wildfires, California Needs to Up Its Forestry Game


Contributing to the problem is the way we fight wildfires and fund wildfire fighting, Stephens says, observing that the emphases in wildfire combat have changed in recent years. A few decades ago, fire-fighters could employ landscape-scale strategies to control fires. …

“The problem has been the explosive growth in interface [suburban intrusion into forested areas],” Stephens says. “Now wildfire fighters have to devote much or even most of their time and effort to protecting property. That’s extremely expensive.” …

And the shifts in wildfire priorities are crippling wildland management agencies. This year, said Stephens, “… 52 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget will go to fire-fighting. That’s the first time the fire-fighting budget has ever gone over 50 percent. …

… California’s coniferous forests could be at least partially protected with some basic changes in land use policy. First, says Stephens, the explosive growth in interface must be controlled. That’s a job for the counties and state.

“The counties are allowing, even encouraging, development near or in our forests,” says Stephens. “The more growth we have in interface areas, the worse the problem will be. We have to change that trajectory, and the counties in particular have to play a responsible role.”

Second, people who build houses in the woods should pay for protecting them. …

What is needed, says Stephens, are aggressive thinning and “prescriptive” fire programs. Using chain saws, heavy equipment and low-level fires to thin timber, we would essentially fireproof our wildlands by re-creating the forests of yesteryear, forests that were characterized by large, well-spaced trees that were resistant to catastrophic burning. And in the process, we would be providing jobs for thousands of young people anxious to earn paychecks in the outdoors.

“But we can’t do that if we spend 40 to 70 percent of our forest budgets on fire suppression,” Stephens says. “Unless we get suppression costs in line and start investing in active management, we won’t get ahead of this issue. We have perhaps 30 years to do it before our forests change irrevocably. And it can be done—we know what to do, and how to do it.”

Posted on September 11, 2015 – 2:39pm

November 13, 2018 8:08 am

Do not plant trees containing essential oils (pine, eucalyptus) near houses.

November 13, 2018 8:04 am

Feel the Burn: To Avoid Year-Round Wildfires, California Needs to Up Its Forestry Game


Contributing to the problem is the way we fight wildfires and fund wildfire fighting, Stephens says, observing that the emphases in wildfire combat have changed in recent years. A few decades ago, fire-fighters could employ landscape-scale strategies to control fires. …

“The problem has been the explosive growth in interface [suburban intrusion into forested areas],” Stephens says. “Now wildfire fighters have to devote much or even most of their time and effort to protecting property. That’s extremely expensive.” …

And the shifts in wildfire priorities are crippling wildland management agencies. This year, said Stephens, “… 52 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s budget will go to fire-fighting. That’s the first time the fire-fighting budget has ever gone over 50 percent. …

… California’s coniferous forests could be at least partially protected with some basic changes in land use policy. First, says Stephens, the explosive growth in interface must be controlled. That’s a job for the counties and state.

“The counties are allowing, even encouraging, development near or in our forests,” says Stephens. “The more growth we have in interface areas, the worse the problem will be. We have to change that trajectory, and the counties in particular have to play a responsible role.”

Second, people who build houses in the woods should pay for protecting them. …

What is needed, says Stephens, are aggressive thinning and “prescriptive” fire programs. Using chain saws, heavy equipment and low-level fires to thin timber, we would essentially fireproof our wildlands by re-creating the forests of yesteryear, forests that were characterized by large, well-spaced trees that were resistant to catastrophic burning. And in the process, we would be providing jobs for thousands of young people anxious to earn paychecks in the outdoors.

“But we can’t do that if we spend 40 to 70 percent of our forest budgets on fire suppression,” Stephens says. “Unless we get suppression costs in line and start investing in active management, we won’t get ahead of this issue. We have perhaps 30 years to do it before our forests change irrevocably. And it can be done—we know what to do, and how to do it.”
Posted on September 11, 2015 – 2:39pm

Mike Smith
November 13, 2018 8:07 am

Moonbeam is simply trying to distract attention away from the factors that are actually responsible for the fires including poor land/forest/brush management, ineffective regulation of PG&E and other utilities and neglect of infrastructure (including gas and power lines, water, dams, roads, etc). And to showcase his stupid ideological policies including subsidized solar panels, windmills and Tesla’s for rich dudes.

What a disgusting scumbag he is and a lousy custodian of California’s infrastructure and natural resources. I am sure, however, he feels absolutely no shame.

Reply to  Mike Smith
November 13, 2018 10:19 am

Moonbeam vetoed SB 1463 (Clear the brush PG&E) which passed unopposed in the house and senate then signed into law SB 901 which sticks the tax payers with the cost of PG&E malfeasance. And for those that missed the irony he misdirects by shouting lies about climate-change while being in bed with PG&E.

42 dead so far, isn’t about time to deal with the real problem, greed and corruption by politicians and environmentalist.

Joel O’Bryan
November 13, 2018 8:13 am

WSJ Editorial Board agrees with Willis.

“Trump is a bully, but he’s right about bad forest management.”

November 13, 2018 8:17 am
November 13, 2018 8:23 am

If, as Moonbeam claims, dryness is the new normal, than once a forest burns, it won’t grow back.
If it doesn’t grow back it can’t burn down again.

So if Moonbeam is right, then wildfires can’t be the new normal.

November 13, 2018 8:28 am

Why is everyone waiting for El Niño? The Sun is above the Earth.

November 13, 2018 8:34 am

Remember what the bastion of “wise government action” Rahm Emanuel said when he was Obama’s chief of staff: “Let no good crisis go to waste.” Turn, twist, spin every tragedy into something for political gain.

So far the warmists have developed an whole litany of “crises” to blame on global warming most all of which have nothing to do with climate but gross mismanagement by Left wing politicians and overly protected technocrats. I became more and more a skeptic as the warmists blamed evermore things of global warming, several of which I knew from history had been around for at least much of my long life.

Walt D.
Reply to  Edwin
November 13, 2018 10:40 am

So you don’t buy the explanation that these fires can be explained by a 0.01C increase in global temperatures since last year?

November 13, 2018 8:34 am

The wind speed around Los Angeles has grown to over 60 km / h. The gusts over 70 km / h.

November 13, 2018 9:07 am

Being from sunny Cal, I have spent most of my life listening to the latest Fall season firestorm. Most people’s memory is short but mine is not. Fires burn in the Transverse Ranges, Peninsular Ranges, and Sierra Nevada most years. That is just the California climate. There is a good list of California wildfires here:
It is wise to remember that they begin with a high pressure zone, which is cold air aloft that descends. This is why the windborne wildfires always occur in the Fall. It is due to cold air.
Climate changes is a convenient excuse by politicians to avoid blame or necessity to do something about the problem. Here are some changes I have observed in the last 60 years that contribute to the problem.
1. More people, more cars, and more power lines to start fires – California’s population has doubled in my lifetime.
2. More homes built on hillsides in the wildland-urban interface to be destroyed by the fire
3. More land designated as protected habitat for species listed as rare, threatened or endangered
4. Fire suppression that allows fuel to build up and disrupts the natural fire cycle
5. The ban on the use of asbestos in construction. Todays’ insulation is for outdoor temperatures 20 degrees above indoors, not 2000 degrees. The purpose of asbestos containing insulation was to stop fire, not to save on heating and air conditioning bills.
6. Increased use of combustible native vegetation in landscaping to save water
7. Lack of building code enforcement for WUI construction and legacy homes that precede modern code
8. Trees growing in the utility corridor
9. lack of defensive space or windbreaks
10. Use of combustible trees in landscaping

It is no wonder that windborne fires are so destructive here. A quick google search indicates there is a growing recognition that towns built in fire-prone areas need to plant windbreaks with fire-proof trees such as cypress. The problem is that it is easier to blame climate change than to take preventive measures.

Walt D.
Reply to  Jim
November 13, 2018 10:40 am


Walt D.
November 13, 2018 9:11 am

Blaming natural phenomena on super-natural causes.
Reminds me of the 1973 film The Wicker Man.
What next Governor Brown-Energy is going to perform human sacrifices of climate change “deniers” to appease the Gods?

November 13, 2018 9:30 am

I forgot to mention something else – there has been an evident change in firefighting practices here due to risk aversion. What we are seeing here is that firefighters are less inclined to defend homes and neighborhoods from fire. To avoid risk they will establish a defensible line along a highway or railroad track and let all homes in the path of the fire upwind from the defense line burn. In the case of the town of Paradise, it was clear that defense lines were quickly established along surrounding Hwy 32, 99 and 70. Unfortunately the town of Paradise was upwind of 99 directly in the path of the fire. I do not believe the individual firefighters themselves have any say in what they defend, I am not blaming them. It is a management decision. Coffey Park burned to the ground in Santa Rosa in 2017. There must have been 1,000 homes in that neighborhood. The homes were older and had crawlspace foundations where windborne burning embers could enter the crawlspace through crawlspace ventilation and burn the house down from the hardwood floor up. It was evident that the firefighters had established a defense line along the railroad tracks downwind and let Coffey Park burn. A similar fire had burned in the same footprint 50 years earlier called the Hanley Fire. Coffey Park was spared then. Probably because it was defended. The most common entry for fire in a home is attic ventilation. We have more and more of that due to a desire to keep attics cool in summer for energy conservation. As the song goes, “When will they ever learn”. Every solution begets another problem.

Curious George
Reply to  Jim
November 13, 2018 10:12 am

Wasn’t there a softening of requirements on physical condition in order to recruit more female firefighters?

November 13, 2018 10:07 am

I just thought of the implications of what I just said. A decision to let an entire neighborhood or community burn to avoid risk to firefighters must be made at the highest level of state government. In this state it means at least CalOES or CalFire HQ in Sacramento or perhaps even the Governor’s office??
The Federal Government pays for disasters through FEMA. A federal investigation into the State decision-making process that leads to the abandonment of entire communities in the path of a fire might be warranted, just to make sure that the State decision-making process is sound and not passing excessive cost to federal taxpayers.

November 13, 2018 11:00 am

The death toll in Paradise stands at 42 and continues to rise. Firefighters don’t just protect property, they protect lives. Six lives were lost in the 2017 Norcal fires. This time it will be much worse. In recent years I have come to feel that my life and property are not protected by my State.
My I am talkative today. With regard to national forests in California. It is true that a century of fire suppression caused fuel to build up and wildfires to become more and more destructive. They have figured this out and now try to let natural lightning-set fires burn. Sometimes the fires get out of hand but usually not. Right now there is a serious problem here with pine bark beetle infestation in old trees. Clearing of dead trees is rarely allowed. The dead trees are left to burn. Another problem we have here is that most trees were harvested 100 years ago to feed the railroad. Our forests are mostly replanted, sometimes with a monoculture, usually all the same age. But I believe the Fed now does the best that it can with forest management under the circumstances.

We have another serious problem. Native grass here is mostly perennial. Most of it has been displaced with invasive grasses that are annuals. They grow in winter and spring and die in the summer. The grass fires we get in summer and fall are not entirely natural. Attempts to restore native grass have mostly been unsuccessful. The seeds of the invasive annual species are in the soil and can last for five years before sprouting so are impossible to eradicate. So we have learned to live with grass fires.

Long ago this State did mechanical vehicle inspections. Now they only check smog emissions. Many of the fires here are started by vehicles in poor mechanical condition. Engine fires, sparks, flat tires, short-circuits. This State has a Mediterranean climate that typically gets no rain from May to October. No rain also means no lightning to set natural fires. Most fires here are set by people, cars, or power lines. PG&E is working right now to reduce fires started by downed power lines. The number of wildfires set by cars is easily reduced by implementing a vehicle inspection program.

November 13, 2018 11:28 am

Here is an interesting description of the Old Normal, published in 1890, before the demonic CO2 molecule had its chance to destroy California’s perfect, stable, and entirely hospitable climate:

Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles (1890)
Vol. 1, No. 5 (1890), pp. 33-39 (7 pages)

Beta Blocker
November 13, 2018 11:29 am

A wind-damaged PG&E high tension power line has been identified as the initiation source for the Camp Fire. As a consequence of this disaster and their negligence in not doing what they could have done to prevent it, PG&E is now in deep legal and financial trouble.

Advocates of renewable energy technology, wind and solar backed by batteries, are claiming that renewable powered microgrids can avoid the need for routing high-tension power lines through heavily forested areas prone to wildfires.

My view is that Small Modular Reactors (SMR’s) might some day be useful for powering a microgrid electric power architecture of the kind now being proposed. For example, thought has been given to using SMR’s for Puerto Rico’s long-term power needs. Unfortunately, general commercial availability of SMR’s for these kinds of applications is at least a decade away.

In its decision to close the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, PG&E said that California can easily achieve 70% renewable electricity by 2030 assuming that appropriate and timely investments can be made in the right technologies. PG&E sees no further need for nuclear power in California and so would not consider using an SMR for a microgrid even if one could be made available within the next few years.

As restitution for their mistakes in not shutting down their power lines soon enough to prevent a sparking of the Camp Fire, consideration should be given to forcing PG&E to use Chico and its surrounding service area in an experiment for determining how best to create an independent renewable-powered microgrid which can be used as a model for other areas of the state.

The microgrid PG&E employs for the Chico area would include both wind and solar facilities, plus enough energy storage capacity to allow for a 70% renewable, 30% non-renewable energy resource mix as measured on an annual basis.

In this way, the true costs of a maintaining a 70/30 mix over a year’s time between renewables and non-renewables — the same mix PG&E says is easily achievable statewide by 2030 — can be accurately monitored and assessed using a real-world large-scale prototype microgrid.

November 13, 2018 12:01 pm

On the extreme vulnerability of California homes to wildfire:
When I was a kid, when I went up into my parents’ attic I would find non-combustible insulation. They used rock wool. Vermiculite was also commonly used. Concern arose about inhalation of airborne fibers. My own first homes were insulated with fiberglas. Fiberglas will burn, but requires a high combustion temperature. When I go into my attic today, I see blown cellulose. Cellulose is highly combustible at a relatively low temperature. If I could afford it I would replace it. I have to assume that the exterior walls of my home are insulated with cellulose as well. I live in a tract development home which means all the homes in my neighborhood are insulated with cellulose. Cellulose has taken over the insulation market here because there is no health risk from inhaling airborne fibers. If a single burning ember of less than 1/8 of an inch entered my attic through a vent screen, it would likely burn the house down. I am located in a state prone to windborne firestorm and I live in a house made of paper. Welcome to California.
As if that were not enough …. They have discovered that the use of vapor barrier, OSB and cellulose in exterior walls makes it prone to dampness and mold growth. The solution? They now ventilate exterior walls. A new home here has a minimum 1 inch overhang at the bottom of an exterior wall. There are holes in the underside of the overhang. This serves the purpose of ventilating the inside of the walls to keep them dry. It also provides a possible entry for windborne burning embers.
Just to make the fire risk complete, I have a gas water heater located in my garage. If there is ever a fire in my garage, my house will become a bomb. I have added foam insulation to my garage door. There is a large gap under the exterior door into my backyard. That allows gasoline vapors from the cars, denser than air, to escape along the garage floor. It also would allow burning embers to enter the garage. Fortunately in my house it happens to face south. In other homes in this development of the same design, the door would face north, upwind in a firestorm.
I live near open space. By the wildland-urban interface (WUI) definition I live within it because it is less than 1/4 mile from my house to open space (grassland). In this town, goats are used to reduce fuel buildup in the grassland. It is expensive but environmentally friendly. Something I’ve noticed in the grassland is that many homes at the interface have back fences made of non-combustible concrete, stone or brick. They are doing what they can to live in an environment in which wildfire is a part. Believe it or not some have wooden fences, with dead wild oat grass a foot high leaning against it. Often they have gas-fed backyard grills.

But keep on blaming climate change, Mr. Governor. The Governor currently lives in the fully restored Governor’s Mansion in the middle of downtown Sacramento that he refused to live in the first time he was Governor, choosing a nearby apartment flat instead. I believe he has always been an urban dweller, his father having been a Governor. Most people here are driven to the Burbs and the WUI due to the extraordinarily high cost of housing in the coastal urban areas. Like me, I believe he has lived in California most or all of his life. Unlike me, I don’t believe he has observed the kinds of changes the common folk experience that I have observed.
From 1999 to 2007 Governor Brown served as Mayor of the City of Oakland.
In October 1991, almost 30 years ago, the Tunnel Fire aka Oakland Hills Firestorm destroyed 2,843 homes and killed 25 people in the Wildland Urban Interface of north City of Oakland. What have we learned since then? Not enough. But we’ve learned to blame climate change.

Flight Level
November 13, 2018 12:23 pm

California has definitely a problem with wood consumption as this prop65 label states:

“WARNING Burning this manufactured firelog results in emissions that can expose you to chemicals including carbon monoxide, soot, smoke and other combustion by-products, which are known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and/or other adverse health effects. For more information go to”

More where this came from :

From this point onwards, sky’s the limit.

Cap Harper
November 13, 2018 1:12 pm

Hi Willis, in your excellent commentary you said, “The rate at which the temperature drops is about 1°C for every hundred metres {love the Imperial spelling} of additional altitude.) I believe that this is the dry adiabatic lapse rate. It will hardly affect the point of article, but I am curious why not the wet rate of around 0.5°C per hundred metres, which rate I believe is more typical of the world in which we live.

Thanks for another interesting analysis,

Cap in Concord

Andre Den Tandt
November 13, 2018 1:31 pm

If California is ready to look farther than its nose to find a way to stop these recurring catastrophes, perhaps something can be learned in Australia. The combination of heat , drought and an abundance of gumtrees that are prone to burst into flame suggest they are in a similar predicament., if not a worse one. They have had quite a few such disasters, but the frequency has decreased, which suggests that they have learned to manage this better over time.

November 13, 2018 1:32 pm

I keep seeing in these comments the false claim that our choice is between “bad” man-caused fires and “good” nature-caused fires.

That ignores the fact that lightning also causes fires when we least want them (because they are most intense and damaging) and that humans have been a natural part of the ecosystem since before recorded history.

As yourself how our ancestors dealt with living in a fire- prone environment without tankers, bulldozers and the ability to get the family (and the family’s supplies) out of danger in something faster than an ox-cart or travois.
The obvious answer, is to burn the fuel as soon as it dries out enough to carry a mild, SAFE, CONTROLLABLE fire. Thus you do away with the risk of extreme fires while creating frequent firebreaks and refuge areas for both humans and animals.

Rocket-science is not required.

A little common-sense is….

Reply to  PeterW
November 13, 2018 3:23 pm

There is your problem.
“Rocket-science is not required.
A little common-sense is….”

There is strong evidence that CAGW fanaticism drives out all sense, common or otherwise.


November 13, 2018 1:49 pm

Willis, that link and my Excel trendline tell me that statewide California warmed about 1.5°C between 1895 and 2017. That is 1.2°C per century, not 0.2°C. I think the key is in the caption: “The seasonal variations have been removed”. How did you do this and how did you arrive at 0.2°C per century?

November 13, 2018 2:19 pm

I just witnessed the weather man on CBS TV New York (5PM DST) assert that temperatures in California have risen 2 to 3C since 1900 . That the drought 2010-2016 has killed millions of trees which is what is fueling the fires

Craig from Oz
November 13, 2018 2:29 pm

Mr Brown is listed as saying the following:

“This is not the ‘new normal.’ This is the ‘new abnormal.’ And this new abnormal will continue…”

Abnormal. You keep using that word…

Honestly, do people just select words in conversation these days because they look pretty?

November 13, 2018 2:48 pm

Message to Governor Brown and California politicians:

Climate change cannot spontaneously ignite a forest fire; careless, stupid citizens do.

November 13, 2018 3:24 pm
Steve R
November 13, 2018 3:36 pm

Your Governer is a jerk. I have no responsibility for causing that fire, and my carbon footprint is a tiny fraction of his. You all need to give him the boot.

Another Ian
November 13, 2018 3:59 pm


O/T but another look behind the ysm

November 13, 2018 4:02 pm

So how do we reconcile the chart that Mosher referenced with the data Will shows?

Averages may be hiding temporal or spacial differences. While the average rainfall and temps haven’t changes that much, are there differences about where or when they have? If rainfall has decreased during or before fire season then that might actually make things worse because the wetter part of the year would create more fuel that would then be combustable during fire season.

Steven Mosher
Reply to  Bear
November 13, 2018 7:07 pm

You have to start with the data

Reply to  Steven Mosher
November 14, 2018 6:29 am

Joe Bastardi explained in May the above average spring precipitation would likely lead to an above average fire season in the late summer and fall.

November 13, 2018 5:22 pm
November 13, 2018 7:15 pm

Has PG&E’s culpability cropped up in either Moonbeam or the DA’s head? From what I’ve read of this and the last three big fires, there’s a case to be answered. Sounds like misfeasance at a minimum, if I’ve read Cali/US law correctly, and possibly worse.

I used to pass a lot of high-voltage lines every day on my drive through the forests of southern England to and from the office, and there was always about 30ft clearance each side, off into the distance. Granted, this was because of the risk from wind damage rather than that of starting fires (though there was a pretty bad wildfire one year from an unrelated cause), but it stuns me that PG&E and the CPUC are not absolutely rock-solid in maintaining the clearances determined by law, and more if necessary and where able.

Gary Wescom
Reply to  Keith
November 13, 2018 8:19 pm

If you check, it is property owners who are legally responsible for maintaining clearance around power lines. As this is not actually possible for most property owners, public utility commissions assign the task to associated utilities. With investor owned utilities such as PG&E and SOCAL Edison, the CPUC sets funding for foliage maintenance. That allowed funding is generally much lower than requested by the those utilities. In spite of what most people think, the investor owned utility and CPUC relationship is adversarial.
However, the issue in the Camp Fire was not one of foliage clearance. A freak wind caused the high voltage distribution lines to whip around and touch, creating sparks. The wind likely blew the sparks far from where any reasonable foliage clearance would have been done. They certainly would not have fallen straight down.
Now it should be obvious that the seriousness of this fire was not the result of a power line spark. It was the strong dry winds on dry choked foliage. The fire was going to happen regardless of the initiation source. The power line spark simply established the date and time the fire started.
When the Spanish first arrived in California, the soldiers sent back letters describing the a terrain of rolling hills, trees, and green grass like in the park in Barcelona. The indigenous folk knew how to manage the forests.

November 13, 2018 9:43 pm

It is a pair of Gigantic Wildfires!

Fire requires fuel, oxygen, and a spark. ]

Every single time, those three things are present. Fuel, obviously those pine forests have been building up fuel for decades, as natural forest fires have been extremely expensively suppressed. Oxygen, we have lots of that. A Spark, lightning from a thunderstorm can provide this, or SCE and PG&E can do this, which they did.

Simple lesson learned, at great expense from casualties and property damage:

Homes in fire zones are dangerous.

Nice to live out in the woods, until it is not.

Lessons learned, painfully. Those who died, did they even understand the risk they took? Darwin Awards…

November 13, 2018 9:53 pm

Here is the thing: Forest fires happen in some places, and not in other places. The first house I bought was in Michigan, on the St. Joseph River, out in the woods, lovely view, but there had NEVER been a forest fire anywhere near there. Deciduous forest, in an area with lots of clouds and rain.

California, droughts and coniferous forests, they have always had these fires, going back as far as the records.

We could call this a tragedy as the media are inclined to do. We could also call it a LESSON, as it will be recalled. Guarantee, resale value of all homes in a pine forest in CA have dropped and will drop much farther.

Darwin Awards…

November 13, 2018 10:08 pm

Willis botched his temperature trend calculation. NOAA’s “Climate at a glance” shows California’s statewide average increasing about 0.2 F/decade, in line with Grietver’s comment upthread.

Ivan Kinsman
November 13, 2018 10:51 pm

Tbere is s lot of misinformation on wildfires as propogated by the US sceptic and anti-environmental community, particularly the argument thst increased logging helps prevent the spread of wildfires – in fact it is the very opposite:

Tom Halla
Reply to  Ivan Kinsman
November 14, 2018 7:05 am

Ivan, other than the minor little fact that citing the BBC on environmental issues is like citing Alex Jones, California has a Mediterranian Climate, with plants adapted to regular fires. Ever seen the bark on a Redwood?

November 13, 2018 11:11 pm

The very high pressure in Nevada (1035 hPa) still remains.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 18, 2018 9:56 pm

Willis How does the average temp in California get to 29C? Surely at midnight it cant get anywhere near that.

Kelsey George
November 14, 2018 2:23 am

I don’t watch the news normally, but my county is on fire so I’ve been streaming the news the last few days. I just watched a CBS News clip and meteorologist Jeff Berardelli made me feel sick and angry. How does this garbage pass for ‘news’ or even ‘infotainment’. Some quotes and then the link below:

“We have to remember this. If you remember just one thing from this, remember this: the Earth is like the human body. If our ah inner air temperature, if our inner temperature goes up by 2-3 degrees we have a fever. Well it’s exactly what’s happening with the Earth. When the Earth’s temperature goes up 2-3 degrees it is running a fever it is sick and that is what is happening and that is how sensitive it is.”

He then went on to say “You don’t want to take away the old trees that have the most wisdom.” “They know how to fend off fires”.

Apparently, he went to Columbia University’s Earth Institute to learn these talking points.

WTF Seriously, WTF

Steve O
November 14, 2018 4:29 am

“Governor, how has the government adapted forestry management regulations to the new climate conditions?

November 14, 2018 7:46 am


Your conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius is messed up, it underestimates both the actual temperature and its variability. As a consequence your trend is way to low. Please check your calculation, you’ll find that the warming rate is about 0.1°C/decade, corresponding to roughly 1°C warming over the last century.

A simple sanity check:
The data is in tenth of degree Fahrenheit (TDF), hence the conversion to degC is
degC = (TDF *0.1) – 32 * 5/9
The seasonal cylcle is roughly sinusoidal, hence the average of annual max and min is a good estimate of the annual average. As you can easily verify, for 1895 you have 40.5°F and 72.4°F, that averages to about 13.6°C, incompatible with your first temperature plot. I’d be interested to see the formula you used for the conversion, to see where you went wrong.

I’m surprised, nobody noticed this glaring discrepancy. Then again, I’m not.

Reply to  bluegrue
November 14, 2018 7:58 am

Arrghh, one should reload the page before posting comments. I missed Grietver’s post as well as the correction that has been added by now.

November 15, 2018 5:02 am

And this means that 0.12°C is about the altitude-caused temperature drop between … wait for it … the ground floor and the fourth floor of a building. In other words, it’s equivalent to moving 12 metres (40 feet) vertically up the side of a mountain …

Yes Willis, but 0.12°C is the *rate*, per decade (equal to 0.001°C per month); so the full warming since 1895 is actually 1.5°C (0.001 * 1486, where 1486 is the number of months since 1895). The full warming in California since 1895 then is the equivalent of climbing 150 metres up the side of a mountain; or from the ground to the ~50th floor of a building, assuming ~3 metres per floor. Hardly inconsequential.

(The rate since 1970 is even faster: 0.36°C per decade, or 1.7°C in total.)

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