California’s Wildfires Are the State’s Number One Public Safety Issue

Column: Could extreme heat be just what California needs to finally solve homelessness?

By Stephen Gossett

California’s wildfires are the state’s “number one public safety issue,” according to a spokesperson for California Governor Jerry Brown, and they are also “the number one public health issue,” according to a spokesman for the California Department of Public Health.

Now, there’s a way to solve both issues simultaneously: get rid of the fires.

California has had the largest number of wildfires on record over the past five years, according to data from the National Weather Service (NWS). In 2017, the state had a record-breaking 39 blazes that burned over 9,900 acres.

And that’s not all — California is seeing a trend of more fires in 2017 and 2018: “The 2017 fire season was the most severe on record for California,” said NWS spokesperson Rachel Klimas, adding that in 2017, the state’s wildfire season was also one of the “hottest” on record.

In 2018, the state is expecting to see even more record-breaking fires. And that could mean more people will be forced to flee from fires like the one that gutted Paradise, California, in January 2018.

It’s likely that California is just getting started with its wildfires — and as such, their solution may well work.

A new study published this week found that if extreme heat becomes the norm in California, and firefighting becomes an even bigger challenge, the state could finally solve its homeless problem.

“This isn’t just a matter of providing services to the homeless,” the study’s lead author, Dr. David King, of the University of California at Irvine, said in an interview. “We need to move from treating and not housing” to treating and housing.

King and his co-author, Dr. John Mascaro, of the University of Wisconsin

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