The Thomas Fire’s toxic smoke has subjected Santa Barbara County to the worst air quality in its history. The fire has also effected neighboring Ventura County. Conditions are so dire that health department officials have handed out more than 200,000 free N-95 face masks. The masks more efficiently filter out dangerous airborne particles than handkerchiefs or scarves. Several consecutive days of extremely unhealthy air has forced evacuations of thousands, closed schools, interrupted normal business activity, and increased the patient inflow at local hospitals to as many as 50 visits a day. Updates are available here.
Some experts fear that the fire’s aftermath could last weeks or months. Governor Jerry Brown suggested that winter wildfires like Thomas will be the “new normal,” and could happen “every year or every few years.”
If Brown’s ominous predictions should come true, image what that would mean for Santa Barbara, and California. According to the Census Bureau, Santa Barbara County’s current population is about 445,000.
But between today and 2060, the Census Bureau predicts steady population growth in Santa Barbara County. By 2030, the population will be 490,000; by 2040, 516,000; by 2050, 536,000; and 2060, 541,000, nearly 100,000 more than the county’s current total.
If Brown is right, and winter wildfires become routine while population growth continues at unsustainable rates, then what lays ahead is more devastation—the loss of human and animal life, property destruction, scorched forest and crop land.
Stabilizing population through family planning and common sense immigration means reducing the potential for greater loss from natural disasters.