About 40 per cent of new homes built in the western U.S. in the past two decades are in areas that are at high risk of wildfires, Timothy Egan writes for the New York Times.
Egan argues that the “hotshots” who fight wildfires are usually trying to protect property, not human life. People who live in fire zones are typically evacuated in plenty of time to avoid wildfires. Their homes, however, act as fuel for the fire.
What’s worse, many of these homes are luxuries. From the editorial:
More than ever, wild land firefighters die for people’s summer homes and year-round retreats. They die protecting property, kitchen views, dreams cast in stucco and timber.
Egan goes on to argue that recent events are prompting a reevaluation of values:
These homeowners should not expect good people to die protecting those houses. And so in Arizona this week, among the grieving, we heard variations of a theme that always comes up after these tragedies: a structure is replaceable, a life is not.
Egan’s article comes after the death of 19 firefighters earlier this week. The firefighters were trying to protect a town threatened by a fast-growing Arizona wildfire, but unpredictable winds shifted the course of the fire and made escape impossible for the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
The area they were trying to save Glen Ilah, home to an estimated 125 residents, according to the Los Angeles Times. The crew was cutting a fire line — clearing brush with chain saws and axes, trying to limit the fire’s fuel — to protect the town.
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