Sunday, September 13, 2015

We really can mitigate the forest fires, but we are not.

For nearly a decade I contracted as support as a wildland firefighter, from crazy 20 hour days to others sitting around playing camp games, this is what I learned.

In America we always go from one extreme to another. For decades we logged and destroyed everything in our path, causing erosion and destroying old growth and not bothering replacing it.
Soon people realized we were on this planet for a bit longer than a few years, so they started selective cutting and planting trees. Then enter the environmental movement, all rational would again go out the window.

We have been taught since a young age that forest fires are good. Those fires help clear old growth (which is apparently bad to log) and make way for new growth. The soil is refreshed and life starts anew.
Now mind you, long before humans I suppose to an extent this is true, but it takes time, and I mean decades upon decades for the benefits of a fire to be rewarded. In reality the fires burn so hot, the soil is neutralized and only weeds usually grow. Root structure from plants which once thrived is lost and erosion becomes a problem. Standing dead trees contrary to popular belief do not burn up and go away, they now are left standing, burnt.
Despite the reality, rational thinking is not common among humans, so we continued along the feel good path which usually, does not end well. We crippled cutting forests in America and decided it was somehow better to exploit the rainforests in South America. You remember those Rain Forests, the ones we were supposed to care about where James Earl Jones voice would be used telling us to stop the deforestation or in a few short years the planet would implode.
Not only did it not stop, it increased. But mind you, this is about stopping the forest fires in America, so back on track we go.

As logging was retracted in America growth would continue and healthy forests, would in turn become sick as their own plants competed for nutrients. Not to mention dead trees and needles laying about just waiting for a fire to come along. You know the fire, the ones the Environmentalists tell us are good.

We decided roads in the forests caused no good whatsoever, so Bill Clinton signed into law roadless initiatives. Those initiatives required the federal government to close a certain amount of roads a year.
Sounds good, I mean as an outdoors man I hate having a clear path to walk down, and I certainly do not want to see some fat ass on oxygen driving where I had to hike.
SO we closed off the road and let the roads gradually grow over, adding more ready to burn fuel.
Those roads previously acted as something of natural fire lines, so fires which started in the woods were actually limited as to where they could go. Since the roadless initiative, fires have been allowed to spread. To make matters worse, after a fireline is cut, it now has to be reclaimed! Folks think about this, you just made an effort to limit a fire, then reversed that effort to allow future fires to burn!

Next we changed how we fight fires. Enter the let burn policy, which is contrary to how we did things, efficiently. For decades the Philosophy was to put them out, and firefighters worked hard to stamp out fires. They cut firelines with reckless abandon usually anchored off of existing roads. They also fought fires at night, when the humidity was high and cold temperatures limited the spreading of fires. Night was also the preferred time for equipment operators to operate as they could now see the fires. During the daylight they cannot see the fire do to the smoke and actually are at incredible risk of being burned over.

So here we are today. Until this year there were not more forest fires than previously in history, but they were more of a problem do to what I typed above. Not only are homes destroyed, but entire towns are now at risk.
SO you ask, what is the solution?

Bring back responsible logging, let us use thin the forests in a responsible manner and use that wood for positives. One way is by using the wood as a power source, other countries such as Germany do it, but we cannot?
Further as we log it eliminates teh pressure put on third world countries where there is no regulation, huge win win for everyone.

Next put in roads. Not only does it add a fireline, but it brings money into conservation as people spend money on taxes such as fuel, hunt more (which is actually imperative to healthy herds as hunters are the single largest conservation group in the world) and of course brings about more public awareness as people are allowed to touch and feel what really is there.

Restructure our firefighting with proper emphasis on what works.
I contracted in various capacities with several government agencies for years, one of those areas was wildland firefighting. I never in my life have seen more waste. Further those of us who wanted to get things done were limited as those in command dragged their feet. They did so because it was big money for them to not get the fire out. They were paid away from home pay, overtime and hazard pay, CaChing!
I lost count how many times I was told "We are on this one until the snow flies" suddenly as we sat around waiting for a fire to burn itself out, another one would spurt up someplace threatening homes. Then we would have to run and get this one out and transfer our resources over to another. Insanity!
We also could not fight fires at night because those higher in commands, wanted to be sleeping!
Uhhg, it can be done right. Those on the lines are wonderful hard working Men and Women, busting there ass. It is made harder fighting said fires at inopportune times.

I could go on for hours about this, but at this point, you should be getting that we need massive reform on many levels.
Let us work for it, for the sake of generations to come.

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