The fires that caught everyone's attention this year (Napa Sonoma, So Cal) were primarily the result of extreme weather (winds!) events. Extreme winds
whipped up infernos in populated areas. There were wildland fires burning in rural Nor Cal (likewise British Columbia) that made for great local news
but not much statewide news.
Brush removal does happen, but who does it and who is required to do it varies. Is the property/land private or public; city, county, state, federal?
In rural areas is it grassland/chaparral or forested? Clearing with firing (prescribed burns) involves looking at several factors, which constantly
change: wind, temperature, humidity, air quality requirements. If these requirements are not heeded, a firing could itself become a major incident.
CA has a dry climate in general, a variety of climes, and varying population densities, making it more difficult to find burn windows and lengthy burn
windows as other areas.
Foresters have marked trees and forest floor areas for burn for years. Cutting every tree down and sweeping a wildland to avoid fires would be like
never allowing hair to grow in order to avoid lice. What has changed is the amount of dead trees, which now number in the millions. Who has the money
to remove them?
The National Forests here let lightening fires burn, keeping an eye on them to protect structures/inhabited areas if needed. Once a human caused fire
starts, the goal is to get on it as quickly as possible. The Rough Fire a couple years ago was lightening caused, but exploded to over 150,000 acres
in the dry vegetation and dead trees. With changing climate in general, areas are becoming increasingly drier, and even lightening fires can become
major events. Some of the fires might merge to become a "complex fire".
A local mountain (human caused) fire burned into an area that had no recorded history of ever having fire (for at least 100 years). But that fire
management went even better than had originally expected, despite one edge burning into that area.
Just as other areas might have to contend with rising water levels, CA will have to contend with increasing fires. Also, fires that do occur are
happening in increasingly populated areas, more chances for human caused fires and more chances for fires in general to be more damaging. Decades ago,
a fire on 20 acres might burn 20 acres of vegetation, where now it could also burn down a home.
On the good news side, CA has great cooperation and coordinating efforts from the various firefighting units up and down the state (city to federal).
The National Guard can even get deployed to help out (with heli water drops or
Air National Guard provides aerial imagery support for Southern California fires
). And the Thomas Fire has minimal growth and is now 65%
contained, but has 30-40 more miles of containment line to be put in. But those lines will be in non/sparsely populated National Forest lands, as
populated areas look pretty much ok now, with just continued eyes out for spot fires. So it looks like Christmas for some will be in the mountains.