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Flame and Fortune in the American WestUrban Development, Environmental Change, and the Great Oakland Hills Fire$
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Gregory L. Simon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520292802

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520292802.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 23 May 2022

Out of the Ashes

Out of the Ashes

The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and Financial Opportunism

(p.168) 9 Out of the Ashes
Flame and Fortune in the American West

Gregory L. Simon

University of California Press

This chapter continues the discussion of post-disaster reconstruction and fire mitigation efforts by presenting two examples that illustrate the continued extraction of profits from these high-risk areas. First, home reconstruction data in California and Colorado reveal that rebuilt homes are both bigger and more proximate to one another than prefire structures. Not only do these larger homes increase property values; they also increase overall fuel load and potential fire spread between structures. The chapter reviews important political economic considerations leading to this reconstruction outcome that has in turn injected more fuel and value onto the landscape. Second, it considers the emergence of the private firefighting industry to illustrate yet another group seeking to extract profits from high-risk residential landscapes across the West. The chapter shows that fire-prone landscapes like the Tunnel Fire area are notable for their ability to generate wealth both before and after hazard events. Over time financial opportunism has contributed to the formation of vulnerable communities while simultaneously incentivizing efforts to mitigate those very same risks. This marks a financially viable self-fulfilling prophecy: profits in production, profits in protection.

Keywords:   profits, fire risk, home reconstruction, private firefighting industry, Oakland Hills Tunnel Fire, fire-prone landscapes

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