It’s summertime, so wildfire is in the news..
The Practice That Can’t be Named
The Southwest Fire Science Consortium will never get a Nobel (not “cool” enough to the Powers That Be) but they have won my award for Everything Science Should Be.. responsive to peoples’ concerns, integrated with practitioners, and gosh-danged helpful.
We had a serious discussion last week on managed wildfire (or Muwoof, or Mafee?). Well it turns out that NAU, SWFSC and Forest Stewards did a science synthesis paper on this topic, what they call a science synthesis. I am not enough of a fire person to understand all of it, so hopefully someone will read and chime in.
It’s not too often that I get a “laugh out loud” moment in the stuff I read, but the discussion about what term to use.. struck me as pretty funny. Yes, if you want to study something, a definition might be helpful. 🙂
Unfortunately, until the wildfire community settles on a shared lexicon, it will be difficult to track, measure, and understand managed wildfires. Various wildfire incident databases refer to the strategy using different names throughout time, making comparison difficult (Young et al. 2020). Even communication between land managers can become clouded because of differing terminology (Davis et al. 2022).
The “History of Wildland Fire Response and Nomenclature” is pretty interesting and begins on page 2.
Cerro Pelado Fire Was Started by a Burn Pile- Why Did it Take So Long to Figure This Out?
* (Thanks to Sarah Hyden) The Forest Service admits to another pile burn as the start of the Cerro Pelado fire.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham sharply criticized the federal agency in a response Monday afternoon.
“I am — again — outraged over the U.S. Forest Service’s negligence that caused this destruction,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to to hold the federal government accountable for each of the disastrous fires they caused in our state last summer.”
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., released a statement saying: “It is frustrating and deeply concerning to learn now that the Cerro Pelado Fire was also caused by an escaped prescribed fire.
“The warming climate is making our forests more vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires. That’s a reality that our Forest Service can and must urgently respond to when deciding when and how to do prescribed burns. We cannot catch up to this reality if it takes nearly a year to even make the findings on the Cerro Pelado Fire public,” Heinrich said.
“As the Forest Service does the necessary work of updating its modeling and use of prescribed fires, it must also prioritize rebuilding the public’s trust,” Heinrich added. “This will require more transparency and much more concerted and authentic engagement with New Mexicans than the Forest Service has shown up to this point.”
State Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department Cabinet Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst said in a statement that agency’s failure to promptly disclose the fire’s cause, further harmed “New Mexicans who have been unable to file insurance claims pending disclosures of the fire’s origins.”
Despite being covered by wet snow, this holdover fire remained dormant for considerable time with no visible sign of smoke or heat,” said Martin, in the statement released Monday.
I had a thought.. with all the high technology and defense contractors being funded, e.g. Invidia and Lockheed Martin teaming up to use AI and “real-time sensor data”, seems like a low-hanging fruit would be to put sensors in pile burns left over the winter or maybe fly heat-sensing drones over them, or some other sophisticated, repurposed from the military technology?
FEMA has so far paid out less than 1% of what Congress allocated for victims of NM wildfire. From Source NM.
Good story. If you want a reaction, try The Hotshot Wakeup wondering why FEMA can’t get its act together.
and yet (also from the Hotshot Wakeup) the DOL is capable of doing its job.
DOL (Department of Labor) Investigation of Federal Contractor Violation of Wage Laws
We oldsters won’t be surprised that some federal contractors weren’t paying people correctly. From DOL press release:
As a result of its investigation, the division recovered $152,003 in overtime wages and fringe benefits, as well as an additional $12,577 in liquidated damages for the affected workers. Back wages recovered ranged from $101 to $14,783 per worker. In addition, the company paid $16,981 in civil money penalties assessed by the department for the employer’s violations.
Hotshot Wakeup podcast this week explored both the above stories in detail, and suggested that $17K is not much of a penalty for trying to sleaze out on $152 K for employees.
Hotshot Wakeup also pointed out, in the same podcast, some of the close ties between the fire aviation industry and defense efforts of the less upfront kind. My sources tell me that NSC is involved in all wildfire topics (going back to the FOIA from earlier this week). So there are ties that aren’t obvious to those of us outside the industry. Which circles back to the issue of “what tech can watch pile burns?”