“The fires that are getting everybody’s attention right now are not about forest management.”

The full article from the San Diego Union Tribune is here. Below are some interesting snips, featuring the perspectives of Leroy Westerling, a professor and researcher specializing in global warming and wildfire at the University of California at Merced and Char Miller, a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College (and sometimes a contributor on this blog).

Much of what Dr. Westerling and Miller are saying in this article has also been said by America citizens that Secretary Zinke has labeled “environmental terrorists” and “radicals” while blaming them for wildfires in California. Much of what’s below has also been said by many other ecologists and scientists, such as Dr. Chad Hanson and Rick Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute, who are regularly criticized and attacked by some folks on this blog.

[A]ccording to research scientists and ecologists, wildfire’s increasing toll on life and property in recent years has been overwhelmingly driven by global warming and patterns of development — not the state’s most densely wooded areas.

“The fires that are getting everybody’s attention right now are not about forest management,” said Leroy Westerling, a professor and researcher specializing in global warming and wildfire at the University of California at Merced.

“The major factor is climate change across the west,” he added. “Regardless of fuels management, we just wouldn’t be burning like this, especially in Northern California, in a normal year.”

In fact, few if any of California’s most destructive blazes dating back to the early 20th century have been driven by densely packed forests, according to a review of records kept by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire.

The most devastating and deadly conflagrations have most often resulted from high winds whipping fire through dried out chaparral and grasslands. These blazes often torch sprawling subdivisions that abut undeveloped landscapes, such as the Tubbs Fire did in Santa Rosa last fall.

Even the Camp Fire, which occurred in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, spread on strong easterly winds blowing down from the mountains across heavily logged forests before jumping from house to house. Trees were one of the only things that remained intact after walls of flame swept through the town of Paradise.

Now a chorus of academics and ecology and policy experts have spoken out across the state — from Stanford University to Sonoma State University to University of California at Santa Barbara — calling on regional governments to tighten zoning rules and even consider buying people out of homes in fire-prone areas.

“We’ve got to do something smarter than what we’ve been doing,” said Char Miller, a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College, who has proposed the creation of flood and fire bonds that would allow local governments to purchase and set aside property in high-fire areas.

“This is very clear. Get people out of there. Go back to the cities and towns and counties, planning boards and zoning commissions and have a very different approach,” Miller added.

4 thoughts on ““The fires that are getting everybody’s attention right now are not about forest management.””

  1. Some people seem to think that having tree densities WAY above historic norms are perfectly acceptable. Additionally, species compositions are quite different than pre-European conditions.

    We have the forests that we currently have. We should not pretend that those forests are perfectly fine and dandy. We have plantations, sickly overstocked forests and highly-flammable trees, along with millions of stupid humans, setting fires year, after year, after year. Yep, everything is fine and the BILLIONS of dollars associated with the Camp Fire will be money well-spent?!?!? Hey, even Jerry Brown isn’t buying that crapload of derp.

    • I’m sure that one could estimate the amount of critical owl and goshawk nesting habitats that has burned in the last 30 years. Those habitats will not be ‘recovering’ anytime soon. I’m also sure that the number of actual known nests lost could be compiled, too. Why doesn’t the Endangered Species Act kick in, and suggest ways to make those irreplaceable forests more resilient?

      People are claiming “heavily logged forests” are the cause for Paradise burning up. The pre-fire aerial photos show that salvage logging occurred in the WUI, close to town. Between the tiny acreage of salvaged forest and the ignition point is many square miles of steep and brushy lands, probably never logged, due to south and west facing slopes. Not many of those acres in the 2008 fire were actually salvaged. Pretending that salvaged acres burned more intensely than acres with higher fuels levels isn’t rational or realistic.

  2. Here is Chad Hanson on the Camp Fire in “The Guardian:” https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/27/wildfires-ryan-zinke-logging-environment-thinning

    “Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke are being dangerously dishonest,” said Chad Hanson, a forest ecologist who was involved in a major 2016 study that found that logged areas with lower environmental protections have the most intense, fast-moving fires.

    “They are trying to use this tragedy to help logging interests, which is one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in my career. They are trying to eliminate half a century of environmental protections and turn over forests to the logging industry.”

    Since 2011, an area east of Paradise has been set aside for logging, with the Camp fire racing through it rather than slowing down. Instead of selectively eliminating flammable fuel from the forest, “thinning” usually involves removing trees and leaving behind debris and invasive weeds that are actually far more effective at spreading fires, Hanson said.

    My question: don’t the fire agencies conduct “after action” reviews to determine exactly what caused them to start and spread, which should include determining the effectiveness of any treatments and other lessons learned?

    But mostly I wanted to quote the man in charge of the Forest Service, Sonny Perdue: “Pristine is well-managed, groomed forests.” Kind of like cornfields I guess. This is laughably Trump-like in its claim that black is white, but it seems like it would be pretty hard for the Forest Service to manage ecosystems as they are required to when their leader has no clue what an ecosystem is.

  3. Keep in mind that there is a probable second ignition point, near Concow, which is much closer to Paradise than the Camp Creek area ignition point. I looked at the “set aside for logging”, which is surely private lands via Google Maps, and it shows plantations but, I don’t see the stumps. The lands adjacent to those plantations sure don’t look like timberlands, even in the draws. I highly recommend looking at the aerial photos yourselves.

    Here is a view of the area of the first ignition point.


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading