Cascade Complex Fire at night. Picture taken August 8th, 2007, near Warm Lake, Valley County, Idaho. Photo by US Forest Service, provided courtesy of the Yellow Pine Times. Photographer unknown.
I worked with John Marker, a semi-regular contributor to this blog, and several others in putting together a pre-fire and post-fire analytical tool nearly five years ago. It was widely distributed and presented (and generally well received) to several key agencies and organizations through three fire seasons, but has gone nowhere: http://www.wildfire-economics.org/Checklist/index.html
Our intent was to develop a tool (“the one-pager”) so that local residents, landowners, and newspaper reporters could also be involved in gathering and interpreting data related to short-term and long-term costs of wildfires. By attaching their own values to the analysis it was thought that more realistic and widespread understanding of these events could take place over time and geographical location — both individually and collectively.
Our group formed a non-profit to build the mostly-completed informational website (http://www.wildfire-economics.org/) and to help develop this concept on a practical basis. We made two or three determined attempts to test this approach on and before specific fires at that time, but there was “no funding” available — even from the American Heart and Lung Association! People seemed more concerned with diesel exhausts and smoke-flavored wine grapes in California than in doing anything practical about considering actual wildfire damages to the environment, to their local communities, and to public health.
Now might be a better time for reconsidering this proposal, at least on a trial basis. People have seemingly been catching onto the “natural fire return interval” myth and other agency rationales for this unprecedented spate of catastrophic wildfires, and seem to finally begin questioning the “science” behind federal wildfire management policies the past quarter century (since 1987).
This issue is not going away anytime soon, despite political posturing and the claims of some environmental organizations. It is not a “climate change” issue anymore than it is a “natural process” issue. It is a resource management issue, as shown convincingly by the photographs of Derek Weidensee in this blog, and by the research findings of several forest and fire scientists and historians, including my own.
Unfortunately, the media has only lately begun realizing the flimsiness of the claims of the “natural fire” proponents and much of the public has continued to remain ignorant or misinformed on these issues as a result. Now might be a good time to begin substituting personal observations for past agency and media pronouncements and to begin taking the active management approaches needed to bring these predictable events under control.
There is no real reason to continue down this wasteful and destructive — and largely self-inflicted — path too much longer. Maybe the “one-pager” can begin to serve its intended purpose of helping to bring informed and afflicted citizens to the table.