Now up to 25 dead. We can have bad fire seasons in MT, but we can rely on winter to snuff out the fires.
Nulli, you have some good points. People continue to expand development into forested lands, increasing the risk of death and property loss due to wildfire. I am not familiar with best management practices for land owners living in forested areas in CA, but I have heard their activity is limited due to CA law (e.g., thinning, removing lower branches, brush removal etc.). Is this correct?
We also have 100+ years of fire suppression, removal of old growth forest which were more resilient to wildfire, and limited logging operations (largely thanks to the misguided efforts of "environmentalists"). So, yeah, environmental policies are part of the problem. I should note concerning Trump's comments blaming CA, and as Gal noted in the other fire thread, the vast majority of forested land in CA are managed by the US forest service.
But disregarding climate change as a primary driver of increased wildfire activity has little scientific base as far as I know. The research has shown that observed decreases in both the total summer precipitation amounts and the number of rain days is the primary driver of area burned by wildfire (Holden et al., 2018, PNAS). We also see increases in vapor pressure deficit from spring to fall over much of the western US, including California (Ficklin and Novick, 2017, JGR.). Vapor pressure deficit can be thought of as the atmosphere's ability to dry the land surface but also works to disrupt the physical processes which drive precipitation.
Also interesting (but unfortunate and hinted at by Snoofy in #5) is the expected transition of forested land to savannah or grassland moving into the future due to wildfire and climate change. While mature conifers can somewhat tolerate reduced precipitation and increased vapor pressure deficit, seedlings are much more sensitive. So, when stands experience large disturbance like wildfire, mature trees burn and are replaced by seedlings which can't survive the current climate. So they are replaced by vegetation more suited to dryer conditions (i.e., grasses, shrubs and likely invasive species) (Simeone et al., 2018).
Sorry for linking to scientific papers where only the abstract is available (I wish scientific publications were more accessible to the public, but I digress). This research is relatively new and has not been modified via media for public dissemination. But you get the point.