A group of retired police officers works through the ruins of the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, California.
Stephen Lam/Reuters

A morning roundup of the day’s news.

“Where humans meet wild forests”: In a primal view, the wildfires ravaging communities in northern California represent the chaos that can unspool in those liminal spaces “between the wilds and the built,” Wired writes—the type of disaster that humans can’t fully harness:

A fire’s progress through the forests and wildlands of North America isn’t exactly formulaic, but scientists understand it reasonably well. In the city, though? “Most wildland firefighters are not trained in structural protection, but the urban fire departments are not trained to deal with dozens or hundreds of houses burning at the same time,” says Volker Radeloff, a forestry researcher at the University of Wisconsin. “When these areas with lots of houses burn, the fires become very unpredictable.”

Buildings, the material bits of cities, don’t burn like woodlands. “A wildfire typically doesn’t last in one spot more than a minute or two. In grass it can be like 10 seconds,” says Mark Finney, a US Forest Service researcher at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory. “But structures can burn for a long time. That means they have a long time to be able to spread the fire, to be able to ignite adjacent structures.”

  • See also: Authorities are at a loss in pinning down the cause of those 17 wildfires. (AP)

Size matters: Whether built around coal, steel, manufacturing, or hospitals, smaller U.S. cities have straggled behind larger ones in recession recovery, according to a Brookings analysis that sees this geographic inequality deepening with automation tech and global forces. (New York Times)

Fizzing out: Just about two months after Chicago’s soda tax took effect, lawmakers are now repealing the controversial policy—the largest such tax in the nation. That’s a major win for Big Soda, and a major loss for the national soda tax movement backed by top public health officials and Michael Bloomberg. (Washington Post)

Great Lakes revival: Downtown Milwaukee is seeing its biggest growth surge since World War II, with two major developments—a 32-story office tower, and the upcoming Milwaukee Bucks arena—bookending 100 new real estate projects. (New York Times)

Sunshine testing ground: The solar-powered, car-optional  community of Babcock Ranch in Southwest Florida will be home to America’s first self-driving shuttle network. (Fast Company)

The urban lens:

Share your city on Instagram using #citylabontheground.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of a Google employee on a bicycle.
    Equity

    How Far Will Google’s Billion-Dollar Bay Area Housing Plan Go?

    The single largest commitment by a private employer to address the Bay Area’s acute affordable housing crisis is unique in its focus on land redevelopment.

  2. Equity

    Berlin Will Freeze Rents for Five Years

    Local lawmakers agreed to one of Europe’s most radical rental laws, but it sets the stage for a battle with Germany’s national government.

  3. A person tapes an eviction notice to the door of an apartment.
    Equity

    Why Landlords File for Eviction (Hint: It’s Usually Not to Evict)

    Most of the time, a new study finds, landlords file for eviction because it tilts the power dynamic in their favor—not because they want to eject their tenants.

  4. Environment

    Paris Wants to Grow ‘Urban Forests’ at Famous Landmarks

    The city plans to fill some small but treasured sites with trees—a climate strategy that may also change the way Paris frames its architectural heritage.

  5. A photo of a new apartment building under construction in Boston.
    Equity

    In Massachusetts, a ‘Paper Wall’ of Zoning Is Blocking New Housing

    Despite the area’s progressive politics, NIMBY-minded residents in and around Boston are skilled in keeping multi-family housing at bay.

×