New GAO Report on 2017 Hurricanes and Wildfires

Another must read:

2017 HURRICANES AND WILDFIRES; Initial Observations on the Federal Response and Key Recovery Challenges.   

Note that this site contains the full report (142 pp.), a short highlights, report and a link to a GAO podcast.

Update on Sept. 5: So far, the Wall St. Journal and CNN printed articles about the report. The WSJ requires a subscription to read but here is the CNN article: Overwhelmed FEMA called on ‘bottom of the barrel’ staff for 2017 disasters, GAO says

Here is the Wash Post article on the report: Hurricanes and wildfires overwhelmed FEMA in 2017, according to new GAO report.

From Bloomberg News: Watchdog Slams FEMA for Puerto Rico Hurricane Response
Agency faulted for lack of preparedness and adequate staff. Report says identify-theft scheme flourished in wake of storms.

Who Bears Responsibility for CA Fires?

From Bloomberg News: Facing $17 Billion in Fire Damages, a CEO Blames Climate Change

It was California’s biggest fire yet. In late July and August, wildfires devastated an area north of San Francisco far bigger than New York City, destroying more than 100 homes and injuring 2 fire fighters. It’s just one in a rash of fast-spreading blazes that have killed at least 56 people this year and last in the Golden State.

Authorities don’t yet know the cause of some of the fires, but the region’s giant utility, PG&E Corp., see a culprit at work — climate change. The blazes in recent years, it said, are the latest example of how global warming has produced unusually hot, dry conditions that spawn more frequent and intense fires. “Climate change is no longer coming, it’s here,” Geisha Williams, chief executive officer of PG&E, said in an email. “And we are living with it every day.”

Scientists tend to agree with that assessment. But California’s biggest utility has an especially compelling reason to link the fires to the environment. State investigators have tied PG&E equipment, such as trees hitting power lines, to some of the blazes in October that in total destroyed nearly 9,000 structures and killed 44 people. It faces damage liabilities totaling as much as $17 billion, and possible financial ruin — its stock is down about 37 percent since the fires — unless Williams can convince California lawmakers that the company’s problem is, in fact, a climate change problem.

Various Articles on Wildfires

Editorial in Wash Post: We Won’t Stop CA Wildfires If We Don’t talk About Climate Change.

By way of background, the political aspects promoted by Pres. Trump: To California, The Wildfires Are Tragic. To The Trump Administration, They’re Convenient.
“The Commerce Department has ordered that water use be prioritized for firefighters — who say water isn’t the issue. The decision isn’t really about fire.”

Another political take on Trump’s Attitude toward the fires and other natural disasters: Trump’s Response To Natural Disasters Is A Window Into His Barren Soul. 

For Trump, it’s a whole lot easier to place blame than grapple with the effects of our nation’s energy and environmental policies and the reality of a warming climate. Addressing the underlying causes of wildfire would mean having an honest conversation with the public about why they are getting bigger, hotter and more destructive.

The scientific perspective, from the NYTimes; The Earth Ablaze

The widespread fires this year have magnified concerns that we are locked in a worldwide pattern of conflagration that is both persistent and catastrophic. Wildfires have been even more pervasive in 2018 in central and northern Europe than last year, including the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Germany. In Greece, east of Athens, some 90 people were killed. (Last year in Portugal, more than 100 people in died in wildfires, including at least 30 people who were trapped in their cars when flames engulfed a road.)

Congress Refuses to Budget for Wildfires

From the LATimes: Editorial Wildfires are natural disasters, but Congress refuses to budget for them.

Two decades ago, the cost of fighting fires only consumed about 15% of the Forest Service’s budget. But increased development in and around undeveloped open spaces, along with, paradoxically, decades of fire suppression, mean that wildfires are growing larger, more intense and more dangerous to communities. Many scientists believe the warming climate is exacerbating the situation.

As the cost of firefighting has gone up, the Forest Service budget has stayed relatively flat. The result is that fire suppression now consumes 55% of the agency’s annual budget, and some officials estimate that could grow to two-thirds in a few years.