The areas that are burning in California have always been dry, but people have successfully lived there for years without having their houses burn down. Was it always just a matter of time, or did something change–and was that something terrorism or too much population growth?

As we reported yesterday, the FBI alerted law enforcement agencies last month that an al-Qaeda prisoner said he had planned to start a series of forest fires around the U.S., although he didn’t mention California specifically. Rose Davis, of the National Interagency Fire Center, says they didn’t act on the warning and many forest law enforcement officers had no idea the warning had even been issued. However, it’s doubtful they could have done much to prevent the fires, even if they had.

Ned Potter writes in that it’s recently been hotter and drier in Los Angeles than it has been for years. Also, the Santa Ana wind speeds have increased, which whip up the flames and spread them from place to place. Meteorologist Greg Forbes says, “So those three factors?very warm, very low humidity, and windy conditions?that’s perfect for rapid development and spread of fires.” Another factor may be that the California budget crisis means there’s been no money to clear away the brush and the dead trees that resulted from a recent invasion of beetles.

The people living in these areas may have just been lucky before?maybe no one should have built there in the first place. There are 15.9 million people now living in the Los Angeles Basin, and this number has doubled in the last 20 years. “?Man’s behavior, moving into more heavily wooded areas, is making the community more vulnerable,” says Forbes.

James, a reader who lives in the area, writes, “I am still amazed by the level of devastation?It’s estimated that 15% of San Diego County has burned, an area approximately size of the state of Connecticut. My throat is raw, my lungs are clogged and air reportedly has 200 ppm of particulate matter. The smoke is so bad that I am forced to wear a respirator when going outside. It may be necessary to wear it the rest of this week. San Diego usually has 10-15 ppm of particulate matter, and 45-60 ppm is considered unhealthy. If Yellowstone erupts, this is what it would be like in San Diego. Everything outside is coated in ash.”

“I’ve been in the business for 45 years,” says a fire chief. “This is the worst fire conditions I’ve ever fought fire in.”

The weather is spooky and hazy for Halloween in LA, and last night, the sickle moon was blood red. We have a scary showfor you this weekend, including an especially creepy segment for subscribers.

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