California is on Fire. Is your investment portfolio prepared for this risk?

California is on fire.


I’m a sad witness to its tragic incandescence.

It is burning up and down this long, tall beautiful state.

Northern California, Central California, Southern California, Wine Country, seaside colonies, hillside shires, mountain hamlets, high deserts, tourist villages, a glance across the updated fire map online and the scene is reminiscent of the painful images of the last many years.

I look at the statistics. Almost 200,000 acres have burned in California in this year alone.

Yes, California is on fire.


It is crackling, rustling, hissing, roaring, sizzling, gasping, aching.

Fire can be a terrifyingly beautiful image. The captivatingly powerful hideousness of hillsides flaming in gloriously vibrant hues. Teeming with the intensity of thousands of licking tongues in tangerine, ochre, amber, bronze, or cider, pumpkin, honey and apricot, strikingly captivating against the India ink midnight sky presenting as a canvas of carnage, enthralling to watch for its grotesquely annihilating power.

But the enthralling richness of those eye-searing colors is a vivid portrait of utter devastation.

Fire an unrepentant destroyer.

Have you ever been trapped by fire?

It is a terror of unimaginable proportion.

When everything around you is aflame the entire vision scape before you blurs into a visage harkening to the inferno of Dante’s nightmare world, inescapable, unrelenting, damning. Burning bits, like furnace shot shrapnel flies about you, seemingly flung by some malevolent force, winding around you as if ensnaring you.

Once fire begins its rapid, teasing, frenetically taunting dance around you, closing in on you with sinister aggression, trapping you, sucking all the oxygen, crippling your ability to breathe, to think, to flee, peril turns to panic, panic to paralysis.

A whooshing, breathing, crackling, popping, roaring, deafening specter tormenting you at every turn. It whips you with blistering winds seeming to wrap around you, a frightening cloak of scorching embers. Everything everywhere you look begins to drip with falling flames. They whisk all around you, mocking you, nicking you, searing you, daring you to try to get away.

Realizing you are trapped, surrounded, encaged in a blazing pyre you are filled to your brim with a panic so raw it shears away something you may not have even realized you had, a pretense of invulnerability.

Suddenly you become the animal you are, the animal we all are.

You’ll give anything to escape, anything to find safety, anything to see the path to freedom, anything to survive.

Fire steals your logic.

Fire taunts you, like a cat toys with a mouse.

Your every move feels like another route toward prayerful safety or primitive fright.

Fire crazes you.

Homes, farms, businesses, wineries, livelihoods – lives.

Wildfire is just one of many perils climate change brings to bear on the places we occupy.

Everyone is dependent on real estate in one way or another.

Real estate is an industry that serves people. It provides people with places to live, to work, to create, to play. Real estate is an industry that runs as an undercurrent in all our lives, whether we invest in it or not. In the broader understanding, real estate is the ownership of land, buildings, flora, fauna, natural resources. It is an owned estate that consists of tangible property, hence it is “real.”

Land feeds us. You must have land to grow small and large-scale crops and raise animals.

Land houses us. You must have land to build homes, apartments, living spaces of all types.

Land clothes us. You must have land to raise animals, build factories, stores and create jobs.

This brings us to the concrete reality that real estate is also a business, and as such, we all understand and recognize that any business has its ups and downs.

But climate change is not just a series of ups and downs.

It is a dramatic, evolving and permanent shift in the world as we know it.

We cannot turn back time or change what is already in process.

Every industry will be transformed. Every business will be altered.

But my industry is real estate and so my concern for the last several years has been: How will climate change affect me, my investments and my strategies for investing for the future?

These fires, increasing and intensifying every year, in California are an aggressive reminder that climate change is not coming – Climate change is here.

Let’s talk some solid numbers. These numbers to not include any of the previous consecutive years of devastation. These stats are just about the CURRENT fires burning in California:

  • There are, as of this writing, 17 active fires burning throughout California
  • Almost 100,000 acres have burned in these current 17 fires
  • Over a million residents of California are without power
  • Over a quarter of a million people have been forced to evacuate from their homes
  • 129 million dead trees throughout the state are ripe for becoming combustible fuel

But those are just California’s current stats. What about the United States as a whole?

Well, according to the World Meteorological Organization this year alone (and this is only October) has seen:

  • 44,390 wildfires in these first 10 months of the year
  • Across the country almost 5 million acres have burned

But most significantly, there has been a

  • 500% increase in area burned annually by wildfires in the Unites States since the 1970’s

Understand, you do not have to be a victim to these changes. But to ignore them is to empower bedlam.

You can be a forecaster of well determined decisions about where to buy and why to buy by being aware of the shifting realities, paying attention to the changes occurring and recognizing how they are manifesting. This will allow you to make assertive choices about how you will address the tumult you recognize is happening.

Leave hesitation and timidity by the side of the road.

Keep in mind, the most powerful way to manage any significant shift is to actively acknowledge it, clearly examine it and then resolve to straightforwardly address it.

B.L. Sheldon

B. L. Sheldon is an author, speaker, social entrepreneur, researcher, active real estate investor and a psychotherapist. In her groundbreaking book, Fearless: Real Estate Investing In The Era Of Climate Change, she tackles the intersection of real estate and climate change. In a calm, clear, accessible style, Sheldon provides real estate investors and business owners with actionable steps to climate-proof their investment portfolio.

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