Feature

Dousing California’s flames

Massive aerial drops and a break from high winds have helped firefighters make progress against California wildfires that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and forced record evacuations. California will return to normal, said Amy Wilentz in the Los Ang

What happenedMassive aerial drops and a break from high winds have helped firefighters make progress against California wildfires that have destroyed more than 1,000 homes and forced record evacuations. President Bush is touring devastated areas on Thursday to call attention to the federal government’s efforts to improve disaster response since Hurricane Katrina two years ago.

What the commentatorsSoon, California will return to normal, said Amy Wilentz in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). It always does, once the smoke clears and the fires go out. But for now, everyone who lives in the danger zone is united by the knowledge that the place where they live “could turn within minutes into something other, something unrecognizable, something dead.”

“The fires will eventually die out,” said the San Francisco Chronicle in an editorial. But global warming, which could make “catastrophic wildfires” worse and more frequent, will march on unless we do something about it. California is working toward a “historic” measure to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, and the federal government should stop dragging its feet and get to work, too.

Don’t blame global warming for the devastation, said Chris McGowan in The Huffington Post. Blame Southern California’s swelling population. “Developers continue to build new homes without appropriate planning in foothills and former wilderness areas,” where wildfires strike every year. As long as that continues, “we can expect the fire danger to grow.”

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