California Wildfires Stoked by Bad Practices, Perverse Incentives: News Releases: The Independent Institute

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News Release
June 25, 2019

California Wildfires Stoked by Bad Practices, Perverse Incentives
But New California Golden Fleece® Award Report Offers Solutions to Prevent Future Disasters

Oakland, Calif.—“More Californians will needlessly die, more homes will be destroyed, and more lives will be upended by out-of-control wildfires—but much of this destruction will have been preventable.”

So says Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, Director of the California Golden Fleece® Awards—the latest of which he has just awarded to a group of government agencies that failed to heed the lessons of 2017 and 2018.

The California Golden Fleece® Award is a dishonor given by the Independent Institute to California agencies or government projects that swindle taxpayers or break the public trust. And the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) and the U.S. Forest Service, along with others, have done just that.

California’s wildfires of 2017 and 2018 were the worst in the state’s history—killing more than 140 people and scorching 3 million acres of land. But CalFire and the Forest Service did not draw the obvious conclusions from the historic devastation. These entities continued to pay almost no attention to fire prevention, a fact detailed in this devastating indictment: California Wildfires: Key Recommendations to Prevent Future Disasters.

But the report also makes key recommendations regarding how Californians may be spared future seasons of burning and death. Early detection, rapid suppression, institutional reforms, and the deployment of advanced technologies—these are the means by which Californians will be spared future destruction wreaked by megafires.

As Dr. McQuillan makes clear, however, “the broad cultural change to embrace innovation, technology, a focus on prevention, and vastly more local control and independent action, will not come without effort.” But, as every Californian knows, the stakes of not making that effort are high indeed.

To schedule an interview with Independent Senior Fellow Lawrence McQuillan, contact Rob Ade at [email protected], or (510) 635-3690. The California Golden Fleece® Award report is available at

The Independent Institute is a non-profit, research, and educational organization that promotes the power of independent thinking to boldly advance peaceful, prosperous, and free societies grounded in a commitment to human worth and dignity. For more information, visit For media inquiries, contact Communications Manager Rob Ade: [email protected]; (510) 635-3690.

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