Sunday, on my ride home, we rode through what I thought was the downwind ash plume of a huge fire north of Santa Barbara. It turns out that it was ash from the recent – huge – Zaca fire being blown offshore by the high winds. Then, again, in Oxnard where we had to divert because Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu was closed. A friend almost got caught there on his morning motorcycle ride:
Both sides of the road were on fire and flaming debris was flying throughout the air. Visibility was no more than 20 feet. I couldn’t see and I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t turn around, because I was on PCH and I wasn’t the only traffic.
Then cars started freaking out and stopping in front of me in the middle of this ‘tunnel of flames’. I had to get out of there! So I’m riding as fast as I dare with no visibility, splitting between stopped cars and flaming shit on the road. None of us were supposed to be there. PCH was already closed but having just come down Latigo I was inside the road blocks.
I went from “wow this is exciting” to “shit I’m in trouble” in about 15 seconds.
I made it though and didn’t crash.
The fires are burning from Ventura to San Diego – the length of the coastal urban belt here in Southern California.
Last year, I did (but never posted) a post on why it was worth worrying about large-scale terrorism. I gamed what I would do with $25 million and 50 people.
In my little model, two people and about $50,000 set about fifty fires over a Santa Ana weekday, broke the fire response capabilities of the region, and managed to burn substantial amounts of Southern California.
Greece just went through a similar ‘storm’ of fires this summer.
“Fires are burning in more than half the country,” Diamandis said. “This is definitely an unprecedented disaster for Greece.”
The worst blazes – 42 major fronts – were concentrated in the southern mountains of the Peloponnese and on the island of Evia, north of Athens. Arson has been blamed in several cases, and seven people have been detained on suspicion of causing fires.
Note that the arsonists do not appear to be coordinated or terrorists.
We need a robust domestic set of systems – an infrastructure – to protect us both against natural disaster and against intelligent terrorists who will eventually exploit our natural vulnerabilities.
It wouldn’t hurt if we stopped incentivizing people to build in disaster-prone areas as well. The millionaires in Malibu can afford to choose to live there; but zoning regulations need to be stricter, insurance more expensive, and federal disaster relief in the form of buyouts. That’s equally true of the poor people living on the Gulf Coast.
Corrected misstatement about the blog post – I wrote it, but never put it up.