A new reality
When Friedfel was in college, California was experiencing severe droughts. He witnessed first-hand how low rain levels and changing weather patterns were affecting the state’s economy, agriculture, fisheries, rivers, and its people. Despite what he saw, he never felt that his own community was vulnerable to environmental disasters. The 2017 fire season shattered that perception.
In October 2017, dry, hot winds reaching 80 miles per hour fanned a cluster of deadly conflagrations that would eventually roar across 100 square miles of Napa and Sonoma Counties. Within hours, entire communities were ablaze and thousands of residents had evacuated. Some, like Friedfel’s father, had just minutes to escape the flames.
By the time it burned out a week later, the Tubbs fire had claimed 22 lives and reduced more than 5,000 structures to ashes. Thankfully, Freidfel’s home was spared, and none of his family was harmed. But his father, co-workers, and friends were among those who lost their homes, family pets, and all their possessions. Ninety-five percent of Pepperwood Preserve burned.
Such megafires used to be a relatively rare occurrence. “Now, you smell smoke all the time,” Friedfel explained. If emissions in California aren’t drastically reduced, according to a recent state report, the area burned by wildfires could almost triple by the end of the century.
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