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The Complexity of the California Fire Situation

A harsh critique by an informed observer.

by Eric Holdeman / October 30, 2019

The rule of holes says, "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." The anonymous information provided below by an interested observer highlights the complexity of the California fires and the lack of easy solutions to the current situation or remedies for moving forward. 

One of the current FEMA top priorities is reducing the complexity of disasters. As noted, that is easier said than done.

A Commentary on California Fires

Centuries of federal and state land use decisions are big risk contributors. These decisions cannot be overcome by individuals. Many local land use decisions are in a constitutional and legislative vise; throw in some case law and you have a Gordian Knot.
Many property owners have a home as their biggest asset. They were given permission (at a substantial cost) to build on their property. Some buyers get substantial history and hazards disclosure documents; that is a relatively recent development. They have legal rights that make rebuilding the most viable recovery option.
Our current crop of elected dolts are acting like 3rd-grade bullies. Lots of legislators and appointees blame/shame but offer no viable solutions. You can’t orchestrate a managed retreat to a hazard-free zone unless one exists. Sovereign immunity means federal negligence is penalty free.
State and federal enforcement agencies throw impediment after impediment at fuel mitigation permitting and action. The federal government owns 48% of California and have allowed fuels to accumulate.
Neither the federal nor state treasurers complain about tax $$ inflow.
Even Witt’s single positive impact FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) buyouts can’t remove the accumulated costs and risks. HMGP acquisitions requires pre-disaster purchase price, and property goes off the property tax roll. Acquisition projects don’t always pencil out; each must have a cost benefit ratio greater than 1.
Can the federal government refund the purchase prices of Manhattan or Louisiana?? Unsettle the Midwest? Will developers buy back the burned-out properties?
The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013, the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018, and the fourth version of the FEMA policy “guide” since 2017 are counterproductive — slowing response and recovery at a greater expense. Federal government is not saving money by adding complexity and more requirements to the Public Assistance program.
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