Photo/IllutrationA wildfire rages near a residential area in California on Nov. 9. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Author Chiyo Uno (1897-1996) recounts in her essay how she once came close to starting a brush fire.

While working in her mountain cottage, she burnt rubbish outdoors, including her trashed manuscripts. Dry grass caught a flame and the fire spread within seconds. She tried in vain to douse the flames with buckets of water.

Villagers came running to her assistance, everyone toting a bamboo broom to beat out the fire.

As Uno thanked them and apologized profusely, a villager assured her: "No problem, ma'am. Wildfires happen often around here, and we're quite used to putting them out."

In the United States, this year's wildfire season in California turned out to be especially destructive in November, causing unprecedented damage. After claiming more than 80 lives and burning down 19,000 buildings, the conflagration was finally brought under control on Nov. 25.

The epic blaze started on Nov. 8. From the video images I kept seeing in the meantime, what was happening looked nothing like my image of a wildfire: The flames were licking urban communities.

Entertainer Lady Gaga, who had to evacuate her Malibu home, posted on social media a video of smoke rising from her neighborhood.

I understand that global warming is being blamed for this catastrophe. Perhaps the dry air is rendering plants more prone to catch fire and spread the flames.

According to one U.S. report, global warming-related wildfires and hurricanes have caused nearly $400 billion (about 45 trillion yen) in damage since 2015.

If global warming is indeed what we have to battle with, even the latest fire-fighting gear won't be of much use. And a bamboo broom? Forget it.

Here is yet another manifestation of a serious problem the world is still unable to control.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 27

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.