There is a intriguing story in today’s San Diego paper about one Jeff Smith, a resident of Escondido, California. His house was about two miles from the further advance of the recent wildfires here — and it was gutted by fire.
How did it happen? Probably wind-borne embers that were carried to his house, and then caused his shake-shingle roof to catch fire. He was downwind of the main fire, and his type of roof is highly flammable, the sort of thing that people in wildfire areas are strongly encouraged to replace.
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting example of extreme value theory at work: He is an outlier, with no-one around him catching fire, even those with a similar roof type, and yet his house burned. Some people are baffled at what happened, but in a sense it’s predictable — outlier cases like, while unhappy for those caught out, are part of dynamic, risky systems.