Is California’s fire response up to the challenge?

6 min readAug 26, 2020

I grew up in Spain, a country where summer wildfires are sadly quite common. I remember witnessing many of them during my childhood behind the window of my parent’s living room, which has a pretty privileged view of the surroundings. I can still see the wildfire’s glare lighting up the sky during the warm summer nights, and the red, hazy skies turning everything to orange.

And I also remember the noise of the helicopters and those super cool yellow air tankers from the Air Force, loading water from the bay and working tirelessly to help extinguish the wildfires. It was at the same time amazing and terrifying to watch.

A Spanish CL-215

I left Spain for California several years ago, but it appears wildfires are still very much a part of my life. And while forest fires are completely natural, the last few years have been particularly devastating, in part because of human intervention: Climate change, questionable management of the electrical infrastructure, and population pressure are contributing to exacerbate the issue.

As I write this, the so-called “CZU Lightning Complex” (one of the many wildfires currently active in California) burns just 20 miles away. And while the last week has felt like a shitstorm within a shitstorm, where I am we still feel pretty safe: we can just stay at home (now for two different reasons), close our windows, turn on the air purifier, and be okay.

But our heroic first responders and the 77,000 (so far) evacuated people can sure tell a different story.

Here in California, this is an all too familiar one.

A repeating story

This is not the first time I find myself stuck at home because half of California is burning. Somehow this has become a routine. Every year it begins in summer and goes on until November, when the first rains come help us.

As I said, I’m aware that I’m writing from a pretty privileged position here. For me this just means that a few weeks a year I have to stay at home, maybe rearrange my weekend plans, and maybe make some preparations in case we need to leave the area quickly. But people are dying out there, some of them trying to defend their houses from fire, others escaping from it, others while working hard to…


I’ve been into software engineering for the most part of my life so I have thought long and hard about it. Now I‘m just writing it down.