Lessons from the 2017 Sonoma County Fires

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

In October, 2017, wildfires ravaged Sonoma County, California, destroying more than 5,000 structures. In their report, “Built to Burn,” for Reveal, Eric Sagara and Alexandra Kanik link the 2017 Sonoma County wildfires to those that scorched the Sonoma County community of Fountaingrove in 1964.

Few of the residents affected by the wildfires in 2017 were aware of the region’s fire history.

New construction projects require inspection by local fire marshals, and these inspections are intended to assist homeowners in adopting practices that reduce the potential wildfires starting and increase the likelihood of firefighters being able to defend those homes in the event of a wildfire. However, as Sagara and Kanik reported, many Sonoma County residents were unaware that they were living in an area that was at a high-risk for wildfire.

Since the 1964 fire, “decades of development and sprawl into previously wild areas” have intensified the fire risk in the region.

According to the article, realtors and builders are required by law to disclose flood zones to potential buyers, but they are not required by law to disclose the potential risk for wildfires.

“Now,” Sagara and Kanik reported, “the question is whether stronger building codes and fireproof building materials can make these neighborhoods safe, or whether officials need to reconsider their approach to building where the risk of wildfire is highest.”

Source: Eric Sagara and Alexandra Kanik, “Built to Burn,” Reveal (Center for Investigative Reporting), March 14, 2018, https://www.revealnews.org/article/built-to-burn/.

Student Researcher: Kollin Jakubczak (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)