As a fast-moving brush fire near Laguna Beach, California destroyed well over a dozen homes on Thursday—including five multimillion-dollar mansions—a prominent environmental researcher and advocate warned that the wealthy are not immune from the disastrous effects of the climate emergency, even as the fossil fuel-driven crisis harms the poor disproportionately.
“No matter how rich you are, you are not safe from Earth breakdown,” tweeted Los Angeles-based climate scientist Peter Kalmus, a member of Scientist Rebellion.
Emphasizing that it is still May—months before the wildfire season typically reaches its peak—Kalmus said that “the only way out” of Southern California’s historic drought is to “fight side by side and to strip power away from the rich corporatists who are leading us deeper into catastrophe, even as their own homes burn.”
Drought conditions—which dry out local flora, thus providing extra fuel—and heavy winds have intensified the Coastal Fire, as the ongoing blaze that began on Wednesday afternoon is named.
A brush fire of this sort “used to be relatively minor,” CNN reported, citing Orange County Fire Chief Brian Fennessy. But “not anymore.”
According to Fennessy, “The fuel beds in this county, throughout Southern California, throughout the West, are so dry that a fire like this is going to be more commonplace.”
Despite their best efforts, firefighters weren’t able to immediately contain the blaze, which has grown to 200 acres and forced the evacuation of nearly 1,000 homes.
“We’re seeing spread in ways that we haven’t before,” said Fennessy. “Five years ago, 10 years ago, a fire like that might have grown to an acre, couple acres” before it was under control. But now, he added, “fire is spreading in this very dry vegetation and taking off.”
Although wildfires in California have historically peaked in the late summer and fall, Orange County Fire Authority Assistant Chief of Field Operations TJ McGovern told CNN that this is already the area’s fourth blaze this year.
“We don’t have a fire season,” he said. “It’s year-round now, and these last four fires that we’ve had just proved it to all of us.”
The Coastal Fire is just one among several currently torching parts of the United States. Elsewhere in the drought-stricken West, fires continue to burn in New Mexico and Colorado Springs.
Last month, Kalmus told Common Dreams that “if we don’t rapidly end the fossil fuel industry and begin acting like Earth breakdown is an emergency, we risk civilizational collapse and potentially the death of billions, not to mention the loss of major critical ecosystems around the world.”