Maybe in Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. But "taking the people out of the forests" up there is pretty impractical because evergreen forests just sprout up on every square yard of land if you don't keep paying attention to it, and using it for something else.
In Southern California it's definitely a climate thing. Every late summer and early fall, the usual on-shore breeze at times turns around and you get a Santa Ana: 40-70 MPH very dry wind coming out of the deserts with 5% humidity and temperatures up to 116 F. Any spark event that would normally do nothing, starts a fire and those winds drive it toward the ocean. Nothing can stop it, but hitting a fire break like a previously burned area. And even then, burning embers are blown right over 12 lane freeways to start a fire on the other side. Fire fighters who get in front of the fire to stop it often died, so they don't get in front of it any more.
The exception is when it hits a suburb. There, fire fighters have paved roads, fire hydrants, defensible space around the houses (if homeowners have done their part), and fire resistant buildings. No quaint shake roofs, or wood siding, like you often see in rural cabins.
The presence or absence of people at the ignition point is unnecessary. Dry lighting, or downed power lines will do just fine. Sure, sometimes it's a burning cigarette tossed out of a car window, or a spark from a dragging chain or muffler. But any spark event will do, and there are many of them every day.