Communities search for ways to live with growing fire threat

ABC News | 9/21/2019 | Staff
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Unless it's Sunday, Kelly Loew is steering her rusty red Jeep down the same mail route in Shingletown, as she has six days a week for the last seven years. But she delivers less mail these days as California's persistent wildfires drive residents away.

Last year, California experienced its deadliest and most destructive wildfire season. Shingletown, nicknamed Little Paradise, is one of the state's most wildfire-vulnerable communities.

National - Interagency - Fire - Center - Fire

Despite the National Interagency Fire Center recording federal fire suppression costs quadrupling since 1989, the damage caused by wildfires has increased fivefold.

"The fear is palpable," Loew said. "When I drive home through my neighborhood, I see tinderboxes everywhere."

Data - National - Catastrophe - Service - Decade

According to data from the National Catastrophe Service, wildfires over the past decade have resulted in more than $52 billion in insured losses across the country. Flames have burned nearly 49,000 structures across the U.S. since 2014, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That's more structures lost than in the previous 14 years combined.

"We shouldn't be surprised that we're seeing not only our cities growing, but lots of people taking over what had been rural landscapes and making them an urban environment," said Stephen Pyne, a wildfire historian. "People like to live in lots of areas that are full of natural hazards and it's very hard in the American system to tell people they can't do what they want on their property."

Summer - Woodbury - Fire - Superior - Arizona

This summer, the Woodbury Fire northwest of Superior, Arizona, burned close to 124,000 acres and prompted a mandatory evacuation of Roosevelt and nearby communities. It's the fifth largest wildfire in state history.

"My mind was on overload. I have to pack this, I have to pack that. ... Plus you have to pack your personal stuff," said Pat Spencer, a business owner in Roosevelt, Arizona. "Everybody was like, 'Why are you packing it up?' I said, 'Just...
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