FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Politics of Smoke

Hundreds of thousands of Northern California residents are currently being exposed to smoke at levels which constitute a serious health hazard. Immediate impacts include recurring headaches, sinus and respiratory problems and depression. Extended exposure will also contribute to serious health problems which will not surface for many years.

Local residents accept these impacts; we assume the smoke is from natural fires and therefore that nothing can be done to reduce it. But the reality is more complex.

How much of the smoke is the result of wildfires and how much is the result of deliberately torched “burn outs”? The Forest Service does not provide this information. But even if a lot of the smoke is the result of fires intentionally set by the Forest Service isn’t this necessary to stop the wildfires from sweeping into our communities?  Not necessarily.

During the Megram Fire in 1999 high winds pushed fire toward Hoopa and Willow Creek. At the time most residents assumed the firestorm was the natural fire. Later analysis revealed it was lit by the Forest Service. The natural Megram Fire never got near the firelines or the “burn out” that threatened Hoopa and Willow Creek. As with every large fire that has burned in the Klamath Backcountry, it was fall rains – not firefighting – which put the fire out.

Forest Service “burn outs” are ordered by fire managers unfamiliar with the Klamath Mountains. These outsiders assume fighting fire here is like fighting fire where they come from. It is not. Old timers and those with local fire fighting experience know that “burn outs” in the Klamath Mountains are crap shoots; if conditions change they can quickly become more of a problem than the natural fires.

Old timers know that in this landscape the best strategy is to “loose herd’ fires in the backcountry while concentrating fire fighting resources where they can do good – in the “front country” where people live. But the rotating “managers” whom the Forest Service imports to fight our fires rarely listen to old timers. More often their attitude is that they are the professionals; they think the local yokels don’t understand modern fire fighting.

Because natural fires result in air quality which exceeds standards, the Forest Service must get variances from air pollution rules in order to light their “burn outs.”  These variances are given by county officials without question. Given the track record of Forest Service “burn outs” in the Klamath Mountains, however, officials may be unnecessarily exposing citizens to health hazards.

In 1999 we dodged a bullet when Hoopa and Willow Creek were spared. But one of these years a Forest Service “burn out” is going to get out of control and destroy a community. If that happens lawsuits from burned out residents could follow. Is that what it will take to get the Forest Service bureaucracy to realize that in the Klamath Mountains their fire suppression cure may be more damaging – and more dangerous – than the natural fires?

FELICE PACE has lived in the Klamath Mountains since 1975. Since 1987 he has walked and studied all the large fires that have burned in the Klamath Mountains. He can be reached at: unofelice@gmail.com

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Felice Pace is a longtime environmental activist in northern California. You can find his writings online at Bearitude in Black.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail