We have all been affected by wildfires in recent years, if not directly, then certainly by exposure to smoke. People have lost their homes. People have lost their businesses. People have lost their lives.
I just saw in the news that in California alone, 53,000 people were under evacuation orders. This is unacceptable! How does the government help? By telling us this is “the new normal.”
That is not a solution to the problem. That is tantamount to doing nothing. That is our government extending a certain digit of the hand in the public’s direction.
Comparing our wildfire response to business models, we find that we are in reactive mode. We wait for a wildfire to break out and we react by throwing people and money at it. Any good businessman will tell you that to be a good business you don’t want to operate in reactive mode. It is better to be proactive, i.e. plan for certain eventualities and prepare for them to mitigate their severity.
Our government knows that there is a severe drought in the Pacific Northwest. They have openly admitted it. Our government knows there is too high a density of fuels in our (unburnt) forests. They have openly admitted it. What is preventing the USFS from reversing the “let it burn” policy currently in place? At least temporarily it could be reversed until the severe drought condition is over.
By the way, forestry experts and ecologists will all agree that burning millions of acres of forest will only exacerbate the drought conditions. Admittedly this will not catch all lightning-started wildfires, but I’m willing to bet we can stop a goodly number of them from growing so large that by the time they do threaten structures we cannot always stop them.
I must add here that Cal Fire and the other crews assigned to protect structures do a fantastic job and they are to be applauded for their efforts.
Once a lightning-sparked fire has been extinguished we could send in crews to cut dozer lines and remove excess fuels. This will employ many of the same crews that are sent in to risk their lives fighting fires.
Now we can do it under controlled conditions with the added bonus that we are not all breathing in smoke. Smoke that will give many people lung problems or make existing lung problems worse which puts a burden on health care for many years to come. We could formulate a comprehensive plan to reduce fuels based on threat level using the funds that would have been spent fighting fires, probably in a far more effective and economical way.
The government has publicly admitted these fires are “inevitable” so they should not balk at spending funds to mitigate the problem.
When state officials visit a property and order the owner to clear brush from the property boundary or face fines does the property owner say “deal with it, it’s ‘the new normal’?” When PG&E notices excess brush and trees near their transmission lines do they say “we better go clear that stuff away from our lines?” No, they say “we have to turn your power off.”
Again, this is not a solution. This is avoiding the problem! I am willing to bet that my suggestions here could be implemented for a fraction of the cost of the current massive expenditures by the government on emergency aid for fighting wildfires. And, also, a fraction of the cost for paying out a $10 billion settlement by PG&E. Once forestry experts (not politicians) agree that we have our forests more under control, as far as fuel loading is concerned, and when there is no longer a severe drought we can go back to the healthy, necessary policy of “let it burn.”
I urge everyone to contact their elected representatives and ask them to put pressure on the USFS to act! For more info see: https://thefederalist.com/2021/09/03/devastation-from-