In late October 2003 the state of California was slammed with the worst wildfire that it had experienced to that date. Twenty people where killed, and damage to local communities and infrastructure was extensive.
The wild fire extended from the Mexican boarder north to the suburbs of Los Angeles. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest where destroyed. Local vegetation and animal life suffered very large losses and many communities where effected by the disaster. Thousands of different species where decimated by the fire. It is expected that certain of the larger species like elk, and deer, may take several years to repopulate. Even the local salmon stock feeding in the streams running through the burning acreage suffered losses from the fire.
Damage to the area was devastating. 20 people died including one of the fire fighters. Two thousand seven hundred homes and buildings where destroyed and many businesses had to close. This wildfire was to become the most expensive fire to ever hit the United States. Damage to phone lines, and local utilities caused major outages. People were displaced from their homes and many had to leave the state to find accommodation elsewhere during the clean-up period.
The social impact of this wild fire was a bit unexpected. The personal losses incurred by local residences and the tremendous losses to local wildlife resulted in a push by the United States federal government to pass the “Healthy Forests" bill which allocated seven hundred and sixty million dollars to the urban interface between urban cities and forest areas.
The economic impact of this wildfire was catastrophic. One and a quarter to two billion dollars in damages resulted from the fire, making it the most costly wildfire in American history. Losses to businesses and local municipalities amounted to millions of dollars in lost revenues, not to mention the cost of replacing or restoring lost information, and resulted in hardship for many local area residents. The logging industry, of course, took a major financial hit.
Not all natural disasters kill thousands of people, yet most will spread their effects over huge areas and cause massive damage to our fragile and over-used infrastructure. Telephone lines and utilities like electricity, water and even sewage are easily interrupted. Businesses are not able to operate without these simple services. Lost data means lost revenues. Even something as simple as a forest fire can have a huge social and economic influence on our lives. In this case it appears the best offense is a great defense. Always be prepared.
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