Resisting the fires

A task force studying ways to improve fire protection after last year’s disastrous Cedar and Paradise wildfires recommended Thursday that the county’s patchwork system of fire agencies be overhauled to improve coordination and communication. Good idea. Another good idea would be to make more use of contractors: If California were to shift toward contracting out for wildfire protection, firms from the Northwest would expand south and provide a ready source of manpower. Meanwhile, related private fire services firms closer to Southern California would see a new market and begin training crews to fight wildfires. Eventually, these closer-to-home firms would supplement those from the north. California would have to provide regulatory oversight, but that would be cheaper than hiring new employees. The nature of the threat posed by wildfires also lends itself to contracting out. Public safety threats like cardiac arrests and car accidents require a constant presence of emergency medical personnel poised for prompt response, but wildfires are seasonal. And since wildfire seasons peak at different times in different states, contractors could follow the fires as they ignite.