San Francisco California – Travis Mitchell has lived in Greenville, California, since he was five years old.
The 34-year-old returned to his home last week to find it still standing, although it smelled like smoke, the food in his fridge had rotted away, and one of his goats had been eaten by wolves.
One month earlier, Mitchell had already been deported Malawi burned down in a small area that had formerly been mined he called home for the longest time of his life.
“The town has gone very well,” Mitchell said of Greenville, which had about 1,000 people before Dixie’s fire broke out. “I’m going down the road, all my neighbors are gone.”
He said he was “lucky” that the wind changed and his house survived. A few houses, including two shops and part of a high school have survived, but officials said about three-quarters of the houses in Greenville were burnt down.
Dixie’s fire, now 75%, destroyed 1,300 homes and burned more than 400,000 hectares (million acres) in northern California, making it the second-largest fire in the country’s history.
“It looks like a huge cemetery,” Mitchell said. “There’s nothing to look at except the chimney and the metal.”
Extra season for wildfires
A decade of sustainable development has helped forests grow on the west coast of the U.S. to grow significantly. Climate change is increasing the chances of a drought that dries the oil, and the region is experiencing a 20-year-old “megadrought”.
Taken together, these conditions have led to the possibility of a dangerous “megafire” erupting in California.
The 15-acre wildfire has forced more than 4,000 people to evacuate the area, which has seen more than 900,000 hectares (2.25 million acres) burning here this year – all of which was almost a decade ago. But with the fire season over, experts say it could last as long as December this year.
U.S. President Joe Biden traveled to California this week amid wildfires, promising a number of ways to tackle the problem and reconcile what has begun with climate change. “We cannot ignore the fact that wildfires are driven by climate change,” Biden said at a press conference in Sacramento on Monday.
Biden said he investigated the damage to Caldor Fire in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which have burned more than 80,000 hectares (200,000 acres) and 1,000 homes so far, and had been 68% since Tuesday.
“Houses, good memories were destroyed, air pollution, local economy collapsed, and about 200 people in the area are forced to live in shelters,” he said.
‘Ash and twisted iron’
Returning to Greenville, where the legal eviction law was repealed on September 3, the repatriated citizens are reviewing the lost property. “It’s ash and twisted metal,” said Ken Donnell, of Donnell’s Music Land on the highway, referring to the community.
Donnell manufactures and repairs ropes, receiving equipment from his grandparents. He lost his business and home. With good insurance, he had the lowest living quarters and found a house nearby, but he said most people were uninsured or had no insurance and lived in tents.
The question of rebuilding is hanging in the air. “We were just renting with our fingernails,” Donnell told Al Jazeera. “I’m 68 years old, do I have an oomph to do this?”
For his part, Mitchell said he was discussing whether to relocate to Greenville altogether. But he has three years left to pay for his house and this is one reason to stay, for now.
A two-hour walk from Greenville is the town of Paradise devastated by the 2018 Camp Fire. Paradise was a big city, much richer than Greenville, but three years later, Paradise was never found, Mitchell said.
“They say they’re rebuilding,” Greenville said. “They found a gas station and a few homeowners rebuilt it, but I don’t know. There is not much money here. ”
On Monday, Biden said he would work with California Governor Gavin Newsom to ensure the government has “anything it wants”. He has agreed to declare magic on Caldor and Dixie’s fire, allowing money to flow to California.
Biden also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had approved 33 firefighting funds to help Western countries pay for firefighting costs, adding that they were working to reduce the pipeline fire caused by electrical shocks on coronavirus infections.
“This fire is blasting our red flag, it is growing more frequently and more aggressively, and we know what we need to do,” Biden said. “It starts with our firefighters, putting their lives at risk and in danger.”
In June, Biden increased the salaries of firefighters in the federation from $ 13 to $ 15 an hour. In addition, Canada and Australia have sent firefighters and aircraft to help, and 250 U.S. troops are on the ground fighting the Dixie Fire along with firefighters, Biden said.
The U.S. presidential plan also includes the use of technology to quickly detect fires in the future, and its construction costs, which have not yet gone, include funding for wildfires. Biden’s budget also increased funding for fossil fuels – clearing and burning of tropical forests.
Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a firefighter at the University of California Cooperative Extension and director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, hopes people can light a wildfire more efficiently and environmentally.
Quinn-Davidson teaches people to use fire extinguishers, also known as “good fire”, to avoid dangerous fires. In the past, indigenous Indians lit small fires to clear dense forests, but the US did just that. More recently, the United States and Quinn-Davidson are bringing the issue back to normal – but said the practice should be intensified.
“In Sierra Nevada, we are doing less than 20 percent of what needs to be done every year,” he said. “What we do is throw a bucket. We need to focus on how we can restore and sustain the site. “
So happy that parliament has approved $ 20 million to create a Government-sponsored Fire Extension Fund! Between this and SB332, we can see a significant change in the appropriate fire in CA! @KamemeTvKenya @SenBillDodd @yamautisyouten @Alirezatalischioriginal
– Lenya Quinn-Davidson (@lenyaqd) September 10, 2021
Another major problem is insurance, he explained, because even people with more education will not get insurance for years. If the fire fails to control and calls for emergency services, they are fined thousands of dollars.
But insurance policy is about to change. This month parliament approved $ 20m to pay the emergency response rate on the appropriate fire, and Newsom is expected to sign Bill 332 into law, which recognizes the role of tribes in managing forests and changing the appropriate levels so that burners are not at high risk.
Asked how the federal government is responding to wildfires, Quinn-Davidson said it was important for management to realize that forest management and climate change are contributing. “For someone like Biden, he has to work with the weather, because they are the ones who can affect him.”