I participate in a wildfire discussion group that averages around 130 members, a significant number of whom are retired professionals. The focus of the group has been Michael T. Rain’s “Call to Action” — a systematic and organic strategy for ending the mismanagement of wildfire on our public forests that has characterized much of the past 35 years. One of the occasional contributors to this discussion is Royal Burnett. Here is his current perspective. BZ
My name is Royal Burnett. I am retired CDF Battalion Chief with 31 years experience on California wildfires. At the time of my retirement in 1993 I was an ICS rated Type 1 Incident Commander, Type 1 Ops Section Chief and FBAN.
Since my retirement I have kept active in fire and fuels modeling and have worked with various committees to solve the wildfire/conflagration crisis that exists in California.
I’ve been on the mailing list for “Call to Action” early on and have commented occasionally.
It should be obvious to all by now that we have not only lost this round, but perhaps the entire fight.
I’ve watched and commented as the USFS burned millions of acres near my home in Redding, California. This summer we had one lightning storm in August here we are in late September and several of those fires are still burning… this in spite of two wetting rains and several nights of 90 percent humidty recovery. These fires would have gone out if the USFS crews had not re lit them.
There is no public out cry. There is no voiced protest from the timber industry. There is no protest from the Society of American Foresters.
What is more alarming is there is not protest from the Indigenous people whose ancestral homelands are routinely torched… the same people who have to live under choking clouds of smoke for months in Happy Camp and Hoopa.
As we speak the Blue and Copper fire are burning near Orleans in prime timber and the quote from the Forest Service Information says there “no values currently threatened”.
No Values ??? The environmentalists have won. Since the Spotted Owl was used to successfully shut down logging in Northern California an entire industry and culture was destroyed. Not only were the obvious logging jobs lost… the fallers, the skid operators the choker setters… the second tier jobs were lost.. the mechanics, the saw shops closed… and the third tier jobs in the cafes and other support services that fed the loggers and truckers and went away.
Several towns closed the sawmills that had provided employment for generations. That resulted in the loss of gas stations and grocery stores…all for an owl that was probably not threatened from the start.
We are now in the second generation of the collapse of the North Coast economy and the citizens and Tribal Leaders realize the only way to make living and remain in their homes is to kowtow to USFS. They now accept the annual huge wildfires…they sign on as truck drivers and timber fallers, the stores make sack lunches, the fuel trucks and porta potties get rented.. and our forests burn.
The USFS has completely reversed course. Fire used to be bad, now its good. I’ve seen the try to brand and sell their insane policy in many different ways…Let Burn… MIST…Light Hand on the Land…Burning for Resource Benfits…its all attempt to convince the public that they have not bungled the stewardship of our National Lands. Anyone with eyes can see that the miles of snags standing alongside the Highways leading in and out of Redding are not productive forest…not even as a Carbon Sink.
USFS Chief Randy Moore announced huge fuel management goals… going to treat millions of acres annually. Little did anyone realize that Moore was going to count acres burned in wildfire as treated acres. And, to go one step further… if a Forest Supervisor met the Fuel Management goals the that would count toward that individual getting an annual performance bonus.
A couple of the nearby Forests give lip service to aggressive initial attack on all fires… to going direct where possible… to working night shifts… this is all in response to public out cry to mismanagement of various incidents. In truth, when fires on those forest escape Initial Attack and USFS Team is called in and the Big Box is drawn on the map . There is no effort to keep that fire small…the objective is to burn as many acres as possible and count them as fuel treated acres…part of the fire resistant landscape .
When fires start in August and the first team in says estimated control date is December you’ve got to realize that something is dreadfully wrong.
The damage that’s been done to the forests and watershed in Northern California will take generations to recover…and there is no rehabilitation plan.
In the last 10 years I’ve watched on TV and live reports as thousands of Northern California homes and millions of acres burned. Many of those acres burned deliberately by the USFS under the guise of firefighter safety or creating fire resistant mosaics…that’s another lie. All they’ve done is create snag patches with and understory of mixed brush. They have increased, not decreased the fire hazard. I’ve watched while entire communities burned due to USFS Tactical and strategic mistakes and there was no review. I watched as hundreds of Giant Sequoias were killed in a backfire…and no one spoke up…not even Save the Redwoods League.
Recently the 10th Circuit Court supported USFS Sovereignty…granting them immunity from lawsuits and repercussions for damages caused to public and private property when allowing a fire to burn for yet to be determined resource benefits. Citizens can file tort claims, but have no say if the USFS deliberately burns their property ?
The USFS has become a leader in the Fire/Industrial complex that has a vested interest in burning our forest land. Its a sad , sad day when this once proud Agency has degenerated into a gang of the most prolific, the most persistent serial arsonists ever to plague our wildlands.