In California and other places in the West, extreme fires, more intense and frequent than ever before, are becoming the new norm. Fifteen of the state’s largest fires have occurred since 2000. Not only are the flames being fanned by anthropogenic climate change, they’re contributing heavily to it. In one week, extreme fires can release as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as all of California’s traffic does in a year.
To combat immediate threats, the wealthy are taking precautions like hiring private fire-fighting services and wrapping their homes in fireproof metal barn shutters. Meanwhile, apps like Evac-U-Pet, a sort of Uber for pet rescue, are emerging. While such measures thwart urgent hazards, they aren’t long-term community planning strategies. A bigger question looms: How do we build—and rebuild—houses, neighborhoods, and cities for resiliency?
California already has some of the strictest building codes in the country in this regard.