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By Eric Johnson
Published Jun 27, 2022

Firefighters battle a brushfire in the Pogonip in 2020. Firefighters battle a brushfire in the Pogonip in 2020. Image credit: Jaden Schaul, Shutterstock

6-27-22 Wildfire Season: Making the Best of What Could be the Worst

Before composing this note about the fire season already upon us, I forced myself to revisit much of what has been written about the CZU Complex Fire in the almost two years since that horrific event. Honestly, I didn’t want to read any of it, because I was afraid that focusing my attention on the devastation that occurred in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a place I called home for more than ten years, would hurt. And it did. But reading about the aftermath of the worst fire in Santa Cruz County history did not leave me feeling completely without hope.

My wife and I left the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2016, sold our ridge-top home, and moved to Midtown Sacramento, so I experienced the CZU nightmare from a distance. I don’t mean this to sound glib, but it was mostly on Facebook, via terrifying photos and videos, links to local media reports, and frightened posts from friends and family.

After the human toll—the folks who lost homes and communities, and Tad Jones, the 73-year-old who lost his life near Last Chance Road—the destruction at Big Basin, for me, was the most tragic loss of the event. I’ve spent countless hours hiking almost every trail in that park. Know it like the back of my hand. I was aware, prior to today’s research, that 97 percent of the park burned. That fact was too painful for me to accept. Frankly, I just haven’t let myself think about it much. 

That’s why I was happy to discover Erin Marlbury’s excellent Good Times piece from last November, Big Basin Recovery Spurs a Rethinking of Forest Futures, which I had somehow missed. I learned today that while 97 percent of Big Basin’s 18,000 acres burned, 97 percent of the redwoods survived the blaze. I hope you already knew that. 

Writing in the San Lorenzo Valley Post, Lars Fabiunke was already noting signs of hope just a month after the fires were extingushed. But, as you surely know, it’s not all good news. One year after the fire, Freda Kreier reported in Santa Cruz Local about Rebuilding woes and potential solutions for CZU Fire survivors, and at that time there were more woes than solutions. Six months later, GT’s Aiyana Moya reported that fire victims were still facing roadblocks. 

And, while there may be a silver lining, there's likely a big dark cloud of smoke ahead. 

Where We're Headed, and How We Got Here

Until the native people who had served as stewards of the land for millennia were driven from what is now California, fire was used as a treatment to prevent fuels from building up. The century-plus of overzealous fire suppression that followed, combined with global warming, gave birth to the megafire. Here, veteran journalist Jon Vankin heralds the return of the prescribed burn, deftly explains the exact connection between climate change and increased fire danger, and brings an up-to-date report about how the state is trying to help wildfire victims who have been burned by their insurance companies.

California Wildfire Season 2022: Here's What to Expect

Historically dry conditions appear likely to lead to another summer of fire in California.
The 2022 California wildfire season looks like another dangerous one, with the state's historic drought showing no signs of letting up. Here's what to expect, and some measures the state is taking to slow down the flames.

How Climate Change is Making Wildfires Worse Than Ever

It's well known that climate change is making wildfires worse — but how?
Climate scientists say that global warming is making wildfire season much worse. Here's how climate change causes fires to be more destructive.

California Fire Insurance Crisis: How the State Helps Homeowners

Thousands of homeowners have been kicked off their fire insurance policies.
As California insurance companies have revoked the fire policies of thousands of homeowners, the state has taken steps to get them covered again.

For You in the Wildland Urban Interface

Finally: More news you can use. Along with his family, Robert Kerbeck fought the 2018 Woolsey Fire to save their home while 17 of 19 nearby houses burned to the ground. In surrounding Malibu Park, 200 of 270 homes were destroyed.

Kerbeck went on to write the book Malibu Burning: The Real Story Behind LA’s Most Devastating Wildfire. In this piece, he explains how he saved his home, and how you can save yours. 

Give Your Home a Fighting Chance in a Wildfire

Many of Robert Kerbeck’s neighbors in Malibu Park lost their homes in the 2018 Woolsey Fire, which left behind lots where only chimneys still stood.
California wildfires are becoming larger, more frequent and more ferocious. ‘Malibu Burning’ author Robert Kerbeck shares simple steps you can take to protect your home.

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