How Louisiana — one of the nation’s wettest states — caught on fire

“Much like other places, Louisiana is experiencing record-breaking heat and dryness, which have made it easier for wildfires to proliferate.”

https://www.vox.com/climate/2023/8/30/23852363/louisiana-wildfires

Hawaii could burn again. How can the government prepare?

“President Joe Biden’s disaster declaration came within hours of the wildfires that tore through Lāhainā, Maui, last week, where the death toll is at least 111 and a thousand people may still be missing. The disaster declaration helped unlock federal aid for Maui, adding to Hawaii’s emergency stores another 50,000 meals, 10,000 blankets, and $700 cash for survivors in the immediate aftermath.
But questions around the response at every level of government continue to mount. Many of the disaster’s survivors have said the assistance was slow to arrive, wondering days later why distribution centers were so disorderly, and missing persons numbers still so high.”

“At the same time, some decisions made locally also contributed to the chaos. “As reports have come out, the alarm systems weren’t initiated the way that community members would expect,” Ing added. “Even the evacuation process seemed unclear. Some community members were feeling that there was more deference and priority given to the hotels.””

“If you think about disaster response, that’s like a body responding to an injury. You’ve got arteries and capillaries, and those are not the same thing; they serve very different purposes. So I think when people critique FEMA and the federal government, it’s sort of misplaced because you can’t assume that a national, huge apparatus is going to know who the right people are on the ground to reach into the community.

What we need to do is make sure those local capillaries are very strong and as well-circulating as possible. The artery function that FEMA is meant to do are the big volumes of aid coming in. If you don’t have FEMA working with those local capillaries and supplying aid in the right spaces, then you get delay and confusion. That has to be organized at the local level so that when they show up, they’re immediately directed by the state and local level to the most effective channels.”

https://www.vox.com/climate/2023/8/18/23836054/hawaii-maui-wildfires-government-response-expert

Why is eastern Canada on fire — and when will the smoke clear?

“The summer often brings severe wildfires to western Canada, especially as climate change continues to dry out vegetation and heat up the atmosphere. 2021 was a particularly devastating year, with blazes destroying entire towns.

Provinces in the east — including Quebec and Nova Scotia — are somewhat more safeguarded from fires, or at least devastating ones. Air coming off the North Atlantic Ocean typically keeps the region humid and cooler, making it less likely to burn, per Reuters.

The forests out east also tend to be less flammable, Reuters notes. Unlike western forests, which are dominated by fire-prone evergreens, eastern forests also have broadleaf deciduous trees, which are less flammable (their branches start higher off the ground and their leaves contain more moisture).
But under the right conditions, even eastern forests can burn.

This spring brought the right conditions across parts of the east — namely, low humidity and rainfall, and lots of heat. By the end of April, large parts of eastern Canada were abnormally dry, according to the country’s drought monitor. Some places, such as Sydney, Nova Scotia, recorded their driest April on record. When forests are dry, they ignite more easily.
“What’s unique about this year is that the forests are so dry that the fires are many times larger than they normally are,” Matthew Hurteau, a biology professor at the University of New Mexico, told Vox’s Rachel DuRose.

Still, there needs to be a source of ignition. And for the fires out east, it was likely a combination of lightning strikes, people (who might, say, toss a cigarette butt out their window), and human infrastructure (such as trains, which can create sparks).”

California Regulations Prevent Insurers From Accurately Pricing Wildfire Risk, so Now They’re Fleeing the State

“Like a good neighbor, State Farm Insurance is warning Californians to stop living and building in high wildfire-risk zones. That is the upshot of a press release in which the insurer states that the company, as a “provider of homeowners insurance in California, will cease accepting new applications including all business and personal lines property and casualty insurance, effective May 27, 2023.” State Farm is taking this step largely because the California Department of Insurance’s system of price controls does not allow it and other insurance companies to charge premiums commensurate with the potential losses they face.

Consequently, State Farm is no longer willing to sell new homeowner insurance policies because the company calculates that it cannot cover potential losses in the face of increasing wildfire risks, fast-rising rebuilding costs, and steep increases in reinsurance rates. Higher rebuilding costs boost the values of the houses and businesses that companies currently insure.”

Why Teslas keep catching on fire

“EV fires are relatively rare. Smith said his department has seen just a handful of EV fires. While the US government doesn’t track the number of EV fires, specifically, Tesla’s reported numbers are far lower than the rate for highway fires overall, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) told Vox. The overwhelming majority of car fires are caused by traditional internal combustion vehicles. (This makes sense, in part because these vehicles carry highly flammable liquids like gasoline in their tanks, and, as their name implies, their engines work by igniting that fuel.)”

“Although they’re relatively rare, electric car fires present a new technical and safety challenge for fire departments. These fires burn at much higher temperatures and require a lot more water to fight than conventional car fires. There also isn’t an established consensus on the best firefighting strategies for EVs, experts told Vox. Instead, there’s a hodgepodge of guidance shared among fire departments, associations that advise firefighters, and automakers. As many as half of the 1.2 million firefighters in the US might not be currently trained to combat EV fires, according to the NFPA.”

https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2023/1/17/23470878/tesla-fires-evs-florida-hurricane-batteries-lithium-ion