California report concludes that wildfires could save more than 100,000 lives this year

California report concludes that wildfires could save more than 100,000 lives this year

Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says

(National Geographic)

Sep. 7, 2013 | 3:00 AM

An aerial view of the Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park, Calif., on Monday, Sept. 6, 2013. The three-day fire, which originated in the San Francisco Peaks, grew dangerously on Saturday and spread to at least 200,000 acres. It was 30 percent contained as of Monday. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

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A new report released Monday by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection concluded that the death toll could be higher in large wildfires this year if a more aggressive response is not implemented. The report called for “a full range of wildfire management response efforts,” including the creation of new evacuation centers, the expansion of existing ones, better coordination with evacuation shelter providers and the deployment of rescue helicopters.

“What we’re saying is the potential is there for more fatalities,” said Greg Mathies, an agency spokesman. “What the report means to us is that we are concerned about the potential for more deaths and not only in the Rim Fire but in other large and potentially deadly fires.”

More than 100 people died from wildfires in California during the past five years. The latest report estimated that firefighting could save more than 100,000 lives by the end of this year. But most of the deaths were actually preventable with existing fire protection systems, the report said.

The study examined the impact of the Rim Fire, which burned through the wilderness near Yosemite National Park in California over the weekend. It estimated that the loss of homes and other structures, road closures and evacuations could potentially save more than 200,000 lives in the next year, even if the fire had not been prevented.

Since 2001, the state had logged more than 30,000 wildfires that killed at least 12 people and caused $12 billion to be invested in firefighting systems, the report said.

“We have a good number of people who, if they had taken evacuation orders, they would have been able to go and they would have been able to survive,” said David Ducharme, Forest Supervisor for Sierra National

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