The Equity Factor

Wildfires Threaten Cities’ Power and Water Infrastructure

The fire is so big, you can see it from space. Credit: NASA

The giant wildfire near Yosemite National Park is roughly the size of Chicago. California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for the city of San Francisco. And the worst part, as Ken Layne notes at Gawker, is that these hellfire seasons burn forever.

The fire has already burned through 15,000 acres of land in Yosemite. One might think a terrible fire in a national park wouldn’t have an effect on a major city, but the fire has damaged the electrical infrastructure that serves San Francisco. The Public Utilities Commission has shut down power lines, according to NBC News.

In case your conservative uncle changed your mind at your cousin’s wedding last weekend — when, somehow, you stumbled onto the topic of the environment after three gin and tonics — climate change is a very real thing. It’s not just polar bears and icebergs. It’s rising temperatures and droughts, too. Wired had Matthew Hurteau, assistant professor of forest resources at Penn State University, explain how climate change is “priming the system to make it more flammable.”

Just because it’s happening in the hinterlands or, in this case, a beautiful national park, doesn’t mean it’s not going to have a drastic effect on cities. The world has a water problem. (Lakes are disappearing in Texas, for starters.) And wildfires are a dangerous threat to both the water and power infrastructure, which San Francisco and other cities cannot afford to prepare for.

The Equity Factor is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Bill Bradley is based in Brooklyn. His writing has appeared in The Daily, Bloomberg Businessweek, GQ.com and Vanity Fair, among others. Follow him on Twitter @billbradley3.

Tags: equity factor, san francisco, national parks, water infrastructure, wildfires