California spends billions rebuilding burned towns. The case for calling it quits
A decade has passed since California’s worst wildfire ravaging its northernmost counties burned 100 square miles of land and left 20,000 people homeless.
The fire destroyed more than 6,000 homes and scorched more than 50 lives.
The damage included 40 houses that burned three separate times, as did a structure used as a kindergarten.
Three weeks after the fire started, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency over the region and ordered mandatory evacuations for residents of Malibu, Montecito and Montecito Heights.
“We’re a little bit past that point of no return,” Brown said. “We’ve already lost too many lives and too many homes, and we will have failed if we go on, unfortunately.”
No longer a tourist attraction, the coastline has begun to take on the feel of a devastated war zone. Residents are packing up and leaving, and many who’ve never considered moving are now looking for opportunities in California’s booming housing market.
The death toll is only the latest tragedy to unfold as California’s population continues to rise — at the rate of about 30,000 people in each year — with the state’s most popular summer destinations now overrun with more than 80,000 annual visitors.
“We’re kind of like the third world with the rise of California — we’re becoming the first world, and it’s affecting tourism,” said John Rundquist, chairman of the Santa Barbara County Visitors Bureau.
The area’s growth has put California at the forefront of a movement that calls for a wholesale retreat from a state that — for better or worse — has long held one of the world’s most popular destinations as one of its most popular.
But for several months, the state has seen little resistance. Local officials have been in negotiations with the Trump administration on billions in infrastructure funding while the state has sought federal assistance to build new housing for its high levels of homelessness.
In the meantime, California officials have continued their efforts to bring electricity to residents in areas without natural gas.
That effort has not gone unnoticed