California Fires Ravage Private, Industrially Managed Landscape

Add together the structures lost to every national forest wildland fire this year and their sum would be a rounding error compared to the more than 1,500 2,000 3,500 5,700 homes and businesses lost in the on-going Napa Valley fires.

Radical environmentalists are being blamed for the devastation: “White wine-swilling San Francisco liberal elites created the conditions that fueled these catastrophic fires,” explained a House Natural Resources committee spokesman.

Nearby federal wilderness areas remain unaffected.

[Satire alert!]

31 Comments

  1. I grew up in the Napa Valley. Nope, no government entity does ANY fuels reduction projects in Napa, despite it being a fire-prone area. In Santa Rosa, they lost a K-Mart, Kohl’s and even their concert venue. Some very hard lessons are being taught, right now, as one fire burned 20,000 acres in just 12 hours.

    • Larry, much of the Tubbs Fire was primarily an invasive grass/oak woodland fire where most of the damage was done. The lack of fuels reduction did not play a significant role in those areas. It was an ember driven, high wind, house to house event. You might want to see the comparison photo from the LA Times of the Coffey Park neighborhood:
      http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-northern-california-fires-live-aerial-photo-shows-destroyed-1507593429-htmlstory.html
      One-size-fits-all, categorical commentary is not helpful in addressing the fire risk dilemma we face.

      Your statement blaming the government is incorrect. You are merely repeating an erroneous sound bite that is typically applied to every wildland fire everywhere. I suggest you contact Kate Dargan, who was the Napa County Fire Marshal, who later became the California State Fire Marshal. I’m sure she would be happy to correct your misconceptions about what the county fire service did or didn’t do.

      • Like I said, I grew up there, riding my bike on all those backroads, and seeing the major diversity through Napa County. Despite all that diversity, all those landscapes have one thing in common: ample fuels. No one is talking about preventing a fire like this but, the issues are the same as everywhere else in California, with decades of fuels buildups being preserved. I have some fairly recent pictures of the Mount Veeder area I will look for.

        I’m quite sure that this fire will rewrite the books on living in fire-prone areas. The people who live in rural Napa prefer to be ‘enveloped’ by nature, and don’t meet the fire safety defensible space laws. Personally, I think that third-party crews should do the work required by law, with the costs being added to your property taxes. People cannot be trusted on the ‘Honor System’.

        You might want to study the Atlas Fire, as it is a perfect example of a chaparral-dominated landscape, due to fires. That side of the valley is much drier, and is a smorgasboard of flammable brush, with some oak trees, and even some knobcone pines. People build pricey homes up there, for the views of the north bay, and even the buildings of San Francisco. The roads are narrow and curvy, dead-ending over 2000 feet above the valley floor.

        • Here’s the problem with third party enforcement of public laws:

          Some fire protection districts (like San Miguel Fire in San Diego County), in an attempt to save money, have contracted out their hazardous vegetation inspections to private contractors. One such contractor, Fire Prevention Services, Inc. (FPS), has been accused of roaming neighborhoods like a tow truck operator searching for vulnerable properties. In a clear conflict of interest, and with the approval of the contracting fire district, FPS identifies “violations,” issues the abatement notice (to clear the vegetation), then does the abatement if the homeowner does not deal with the notice quickly.

          We have dozens of cases in our files of homeowners who have been charged exorbitant fees for forced abatement actions. In one case described below, Fire Prevention Services, Inc. charged more than $27,000 to clear less than a half acre. They did so while the homeowner was away on vacation.
          More here:
          http://californiachaparral.com/efirepreventionservices.html

        • hey Larry – what was the natural return interval for fires in those various Napa landscapes BEFORE Smokey the Bear? did lightning busts take care of the fuel load before it became an issue? Foresters have been playing with, and altering, the fire regime for a long time.
          I agree with something you may not have explicitly said – Lots of urbanites move to more rural or natural appearing areas without a clue about the risks. I’ve seen it many times on floodplains.

          • The urban/suburban areas where so many homes were lost are, or were, unfortunately, not thought of as WUI zones. Looking at the images of so many homes burned — whole neighborhoods — I can’t help but think that they had wood shake/shingle roofs. Or were at least less that prepared for a wildfire.

            • Many had tile and composite roofs. The problem, in part, was wind driven embers entering under the eves through code required ventilation, iaccording to one Cal Fire rep the wind was laying flames over into direct contact to adjacent structures. The devestation is humbling and frankly I doubt any reasonable fire prevention would have saved thousands of the structures.

                • All the debate about fire prevention and management is literally irrelevant on these fires, if in doubt or disagreement go visit the area. These fires are spreading just as fast through subdivisions which aren’t even WUI, as they are grazed off fields and built up fuel listings in oak/pine savannas. The best scenario currently is when they burn away from residential areas. They are getting a handle on a few with resources still pouring in, and unfortunately grisly cleanup in the wake.

      • You really had to dig to find that ‘fluff’. Again, we need some way to actually ENFORCE the fire safety laws, especially when rich people don’t want to do it. Maybe the fire folks should go out and ‘red tag’ homes that don’t meet the laws? Maybe they should declare that such homes will not be defended, until they comply with the laws? That would, surely, get the attention of home owners (and their insurance companies).

          • I challenge YOU to find a fuel break in Napa County. Having happy little parties, handing out brochures isn’t very effective at reducing fire impacts. The convict crew did that work back in 2013. I guess I do have to admit that more of that kind of work was done more recently. Did Napa County do enough? We will certainly see when the lawyers mobilize. One lawyer is already looking to sue PG&E for all of this mess. Saw it on the local news this afternoon.

            • Larry, you might want to look into the logical fallacies of Moving the Goalposts and Burden of Proof:
              Moving Goalposts: Demanding from the opposition that he or she address more and more points after the initial counter-argument has been satisfied, refusing to conceded or accept the opposition’s argument.
              Issue A has been raised, and adequately answered: “…no government entity does ANY fuels reduction projects in Napa.” Matthew provided examples.
              Issue B is then raised after dismissing evidence against Issue A as “fluff”, then demands are made that the opposition prove there are any fuel breaks at all in Napa (Burden of Proof).

              Larry, you over stated your case, used fallacious logic to support your claims, and maligned a fire agency in the process. This is not helpful in developing solutions.

              • And you, seriously, need to work on reading comprehension, Bub. Yes, you eco-folks are the peak of perfection at moving goalposts. You even put wheels on your goalposts and shaved down the uprights. In fact, you moved them to another different stadium in another State. Again, ignoring human impacts, and even fatalities, is not something the public will accept.

      • That would be a good study! Start date, fuel model, weather, containment date, final size………. Maybe even throw in timelines of when severe weather effected fire behavior. It would open the public’s eyes to the real danger of letting fires burn without aggressive suppression actions started during the first burn period.
        It would definitely show that not all fires can be stopped at 10 acres or less, which might be why the realistic goal used to be and still is for most agencies, to stop 90% of fires at 10 acres or less…… but rumor has it that this compilation may be on the horizon.

      • The Rim Fire did not experience any high winds not generated by the fire, itself. In the Tuolumne River Canyon, you get ‘natural’ down-canyon breezes in the morning, and up-slope breezes during the afternoon. Same for the King Fire. AND, there is no way to separate the fire-generated winds from the ‘normal’ winds of the area.

        • Plenty of areas in the western U.S. experience ‘natural’ down-canyon breezes in the morning, and up-slope breezes during the afternoon. That’s how air flow works. I fail to see how we shouldn’t count these types of winds as wind.

            • Larry, wind is wind. And it can be measured in miles per hour.

              Also, there’s plenty of examples from official firefighting sources documenting winds on the Rim Fire. This official assessment talks about forecasted high winds, including measuring winds at 20 mph out of the SW.

              • There were three distinctly visible HUGE smoke columns coming from the Rim Fire, going straight up. One of them collapsed, causing super-high winds, breaking trees and pushing fire in all directions. You cannot have a perfectly-vertical smoke column with “high winds” blowing. Remember, I lived close by, back them, and was surprised by the extreme acreage burned in just a few days, without “high winds”. I did some weather research and found nothing about “high winds”, for those days.

                Such large fuels-choked canyons act as fire conduits, due to the terrain and the air masses. You cannot blame “high winds” for the explosive growth of these two big human-caused wildfires I provided as examples. Yes, winds are ALWAYS associated with firestorms but, they are often generated by the fire, itself.

          • Matthew your inexperience in both fire suppression and fire behavior is showing through. The reason you don’t allow a wildfire to go unchecked is that it will create it’s own weather and can exponentially impact existing weather. A normal 5mph afternoon down canyon breeze, can be turned into an explosive down canyon storm capable of twisting off 48-60″dbh Douglas fir.
            “normal” diurnal winds can be used to your advantage, wind driven fires and collapsing columns are a completely different animal and are a common denominator in fire fatalities.
            Not all winds are created equal……………. but you’re right, you fail to see that.

            • Forester 353

              You’re wasting your breath on Matthew, I’ve spent countless comments and posts explaining the science behind fires in response to his faux science. To no avail, he won’t yield an inch and believes that there is no reason to fight fires because you can’t stop a wind driven fire and he won’t accept that not all fires are wind driven from the start so thinning nor anything else would help. Just think about how much face he’d loose as an enviro if he didn’t stick to the party line and went with the facts and vetted science.

              Funny how enviros get all upset about any harvesting operation that might remotely threaten the life of a stream or any possibly endangered species located in or passing through the area but humongous fires that destroy everything in its path are ok. Some are even learning that some debris in streams are a strong positive but apparently that only applies if it was destroyed naturally.

  2. Decadent houses? You betcha!!!! Too damn expensive (good for county property tax coffers – so screw the warnings re: building in the WUI) — that’s why lives are risked to protect the houses.

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