Deadly California wildfires raise needed debate about current spending – Orange County Register

SACRAMENTO – In the days before Facebook and other social media, it was a matter of course to wait a few days after tragedies strike before making political and policy points about the latest event. We always need to show compassion for the suffering – and wait until more of the facts roll in before getting up on that soapbox.

At the Register, we used to refer to the late editorial writer Alan Bock as “Reverend Bock” because he was so good at offering condolences rather than lectures. But, ultimately, it’s the role of opinion writers to provide constructive policy advice after destructive events. We see this following the Las Vegas massacre this month, where gun availability became an understandable topic, and after recent hurricanes, where relief efforts received scrutiny.

Now, it’s time to think about wildfires. It’s hard not to think about them in northern and Southern California. My house is 80 miles from Napa Valley, yet the air is thick with smoke. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes. At least 29 people have died and hundreds are missing as 16 fires engulf more than 160,000 acres in a heavily urbanized area. More than 3,500 homes and businesses have been destroyed, including wineries.

This is terribly sad. Anything one says about other people’s misery comes across as inadequate or trite, but we should have heavy hearts for what our fellow Californians are going through. Wildfires are, of course, a regular occurrence. The fields and woods typically are dry this time of year. It gets windy. Power lines fall. Wildfires spread like, well, wildfire.

What should we learn for next time?

The debate already is contentious. “Climate change is lengthening the fire season in the West,” the San Jose Mercury News argued. “Congress and Western state legislatures should be amping up prevention — just as we strengthen dams to help prevent flooding.” The newspaper also pointed to (and downplayed) conservative arguments in favor…

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