The most effective way to reduce deaths and property destruction from California wildfires would be to stop building in fire-prone areas, and make structures that already exist in those areas more resilient.
It's a simple and sound strategy, but it would also be expensive and wildly unpopular. People want to live in the state's stunning wooded landscapes and making homes, businesses, and neighborhoods more fire-resistant could be hugely expensive.
Experts say as climate change causes more frequent and destructive blazes, anything less won’t make enough of a difference to prevent the devastating fires that have swept through the state in the past few weeks, though. California uses the most up-to-date version of model national codes, and doesn’t allow local governments to opt out of those codes.
New homes in places with the highest risk of wildfire get built with fire-resistant materials and construction techniques, but many older structures were not built to those standards. Furthermore, California’s aggressive wildfire codes don’t apply in neighborhoods that may appear safer on paper, but are increasingly affected as fires grow to the sizes that caused so much destruction recently.