The nation is rightly obsessed with the unfolding events surrounding the news that the president of the United States has contracted the deadly coronavirus. We must all wish him well and hope for his recovery. 

If Donald Trump’s condition deteriorates precipitously even after hospitalization and the best medical attention available to any human on the planet it gives new urgency to a crisis which has already claimed over a record 200,000 lives in California alone and in excess of 7 million nation-wide.

This does not merely affect the trajectory of one of the most volatile and unpredictable presidential campaigns in history less than a month before a landmark election. 

Regardless of who wins it will influence California policy-makers and those everywhere in the nation and world for decades to come.

Among the burning issues (pun intended) of nearly comparable concern in the Golden State are the skies that are turning ominously gray as the perpetual wildfires reduce millions of the nation’s most beautiful acreage to ash.

How the governor and law makers deal with this ongoing emergency and the  customary fire season still ahead is on the minds of thousands of residents who have already lost their homes or are at risk.

In the blame game one of the favorite culprits for all the fire devastation to which critics like to point is shoddy forest management which puts the onus squarely at the doorstep of the governor.

That assessment misses the mark.

The fertile forests have been growing at a prodigious rate long before Gavin Newsom took office less than 2 years ago and he appears to be marshalling every resource available to combat this perennial menace.

Firefighters and national guardsmen who were manning the lines in the earlier breakouts have been stretched to exhaustion and hospitals are filling with casualties adding to the victims of a pandemic still largely out of control.

PG&E’s culpability for slipshod maintenance and timely replacement of aging power lines was another contributing factor to many wildfires that is well-documented and it became the target of extensive litigation. 

The quasi-monopolistic public utility was forced into major reorganization only after a decades-long drain on taxpayers which prompted decisive action by the newly-appointed governor.

The U.S Forest Service must also shoulder a good portion of the responsibility for mismanagement under a federal administration that does not consider the needs of Californians a high priority.

Notwithstanding minimal federal assistance in for fire control, Newsom has actually developed very cooperative relations with the president over the handling of the pandemic with less open friction than many Democratic governors.

The restraint has redounded to California’s benefit which was not deprived of vitally needed protective equipment and hospital supplies to fight the pandemic to the degree less cooperative state leaders have experienced.

This largesse was forthcoming even in the face of strong determination to meet the zero-emission goals over the strenuous objections of the Trump administration and endorsed by a majority of state legislators in both parties who take the Clean Air Act more seriously.

In a squabbling political arena where partisanship often gets in the way of sensible solutions the desire for clean air and water enjoys wide consensus. 

You do not have to be a staunch environmentalist to believe in improved fire prevention as a logical curative for much of the dirty air. 

The debate over how best to control the growing levels of toxic emissions spewing into California’s atmosphere because of the unremitting fires are only part of more complex problems which have befuddled administrations present and past.

We have created a new category of fire migrants in the midst of a chronic housing shortage. On top of this, many residents unable to make their mortgage payments are being evicted daily from their homes with expectations of supplemental emergency funding that ran out months ago.

Growing numbers are fleeing cities for the suburbs or still more idyllic settings in  woodsier environments that are reliable breeding grounds for some of the largest fires.

Propelled by fierce winds, raging fires which do not discriminate where they go are currently driving families, farmers and winery owners out of both rural and urban regions that dot Napa, Sonoma and Shasta counties in Northern California.

An unusual spate of lightning strikes—some perilously close to urban centers some of which are yet to recover—-were the main cause of the 900 wildfires that ravaged the state in August. 

But a single spark from a carelessly tossed cigarette or a few live cinders from a campfire not fully doused are all that’s needed to start a major conflagration.

In the midst of one of the worst droughts in the state’s drought-plagued history along with dramatically shifting weather patterns it is tempting to attribute the mounting carnage to climate change.

These are certainly factors adding significantly to problems that can also be blamed on plain human negligence. 

The largest recorded fire in state annals was allegedly the Mendocino Complex Fire in 2018 which consumed nearly 900,000 acres and burned for three months before being put out. 

It was believed to have been started by a man hammering a metal stake into the ground.

California has not been as fastidious as Oregon and Washington in compiling data comparing human error to nature’s freakishness as the root cause. But some statistics are revealing.

Just this year according to authoritative findings Oregon tallied 614 human-related fires to 600 which were purely the result of nature’s whimsy. 

The tragic consequences of failure to make the necessary preparations when there was still time has now affected the nation’s president who stubbornly resisted every plea to wear a mask and maintain proper distance. 

While the nation grapples with a multitude of crises now made that much worse by the sudden illness of a hospitalized and embattled president, the unending fire disaster joins the Covid-19 virus pandemic as an unsettling addition to California’s life-transforming woes.