A question for the Smokey Wire community: What role, if any, does forest planning and management have in this “new normal” megafire era? This the issue of our professional careers. Some grist for discussion:
1. If, with the Caldor and Dixie Fires, past forest management is irrelevant when it comes to megafires,
2. And because our current wildfire suppression resources are inadequate for stopping some wildfires such as Caldor, Dixie, Camp, and other fires once they become megafires,
3. And since any effort to slow climate change, even if successful — say, if the world meets the Paris accord emissions targets — will have no appreciable positive effect on forest health and susceptibility to fire in the near- or medium-term future,
4. And because there will be no mass emigration from WUI zones,
Then what is our course of action?
My take on these 4 points:
A. We must dramatically increase the pace and scale of forest health and fuels reduction. Doing so won’t prevent wind-driven megafires, but it will help reduce the number of smaller fires and perhaps keep some from exploding into megafires.
B. Assemble a wildfire air force of sorts. Maybe we need 10 times the number of air tankers and tanker bases, maybe more. Such a force would put enough retardant between fires and communities, and water on hot spots, to prevent widespread destruction of homes, business, infrastructure — even whole towns.
C. A significant increase in active management, as in my point A above, would at least serve to reduce emissions — GHGS and smoke — from wildfires of all sizes.
D. Forest management in WUI zones is more important than ever important, as will “hardening” structures to better withstand wildfires. However, the pace and scale of management and hardening will have to be dramatically increased, including forest management much farther from current WUI zone boundaries. To do this, city/county ordinances, state building codes, insurance companies, and federal policymakes must make commensurate revisions/action.
What’s your take?