California’s burning: The social and political background of the deadly infernos


California’s burning: The social and political background of the deadly infernos

1 August 2018

For the second year in a row, the US state of California is the scene of death and destruction, as wildfires surge throughout the state and drive thousands from their homes. In July alone, wildfires have killed nine people and burned over one thousand homes, forcing tens of thousands to evacuate.

The number of horrific tragedies is multiplying. On Thursday, Ed Bledsoe, 76, left his wife Melody, 70, and two great-grandchildren Emily and James, 4 and 5, to go to a doctor’s appointment. The Carr Fire had been burning for four days near his Shasta County home, but they were not under an evacuation order.

After a panicked call from his wife saying she could see the fire approaching, Bledsoe raced back, but was blocked by traffic and the encroaching fire. Unable to make it home, he managed to reach his family by cell phone as they huddled under wet blankets and the fire overtook them.

Their tragic deaths are part of the social catastrophe that surrounds every natural disaster. The stage is set by forces beyond mankind’s control, but these intersect with and are compounded by a social and political system in which everything is subordinated to the wealth accumulation of the corporate and financial elite.

At the same time as fires rage in California, the death toll from fires last week in Greece has risen to 91, with 25 still missing. While the immediate cause of these fires is still being investigated, there is no doubt that the austerity measures carried out by the Syriza government, dictated by European banks, are to blame for the massive death toll. They include cuts of 20 percent from the fire service, along with other cuts to utilities that contributed to electricity and water…

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