Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
It’s your last chance to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch in 2017. Help us gear up to fight the status-quo in 2018! Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why California is Burning

by

Photo by Glenn Beltz | CC by 2.0

The recent fires in California offer lessons that every westerner should pay attention to.

First forest reduction projects will not preclude large wildfires or save communities when there is low humidity, high temperatures, drought, and high winds. Just as tropical rainforests thrive on rain which we can’t stop, western ecosystems thrive on wildfire, and it is climate/weather that drives large wildfires not “fuels”. We cannot log our way out of growing wildfire induced home losses.

Just like it would foolish and ineffective to try to kill all mosquitoes, trying to preclude wildfires by widespread logging is a fool’s errand. Instead of killing mosquitoes across the landscape, a reasonable person puts on mosquito repellent, and covers up their exposed skin, and maybe installs screens on their homes to keep out the annoying insect. A similar approach is needed for wildfire. Instead of forest reduction projects (read logging), we should focus our efforts on making our homes and communities more resistant to the wildfires which are inevitable.

Second, homes burning down can be prevented in most cases by the implementation of fire-wise policies. Things like metal roofs, removal of grass by homes, and other measures can go a long way towards keeping a home intact even in the face of a major wildfire.

However, these policies must be implemented at the community level. If your neighbor’s home is a fire trap, even if you have done all the proper fire wise policies, your house is vulnerable. Structure fires are much hotter and burn longer than a forest fire, and in many cases, what you find is a single home ignites and then like dominos falling other homes catch on fire. This is exactly what is occurred in California communities like Santa Rosa.

I have visited many of the communities around the West where wildfires have consumed houses including Summer haven above Tucson, AZ, Walden Canyon by Colorado Springs, CO, Wenatchee in Washington, Lake Arrowhead near San Bernardino, CA, Los Alamos, NM, South Lake Tahoe, CA, and others.  It’s always the same thing. What you find is burnt out foundations surrounded by green trees. What this means is that embers, not a wall of flames, set individual homes on fire, which then ignited their neighbor’s homes.

If you want to save your community, you must have mandatory fire wise policies that are enforced.  Many of the larger towns in Western Montana including Helena, Missoula, Butte, Bozeman, and other mountain towns are vulnerable to the same situation as has burned Santa Rosa and other communities in California. If a fire ignites in the surrounding mountains with high winds, burning embers will rain down on the homes. If these homes are not fire-proofed, entire neighborhoods could burn to the ground.

The entire antagonism to government policies, regulations, and the “it’s my property and I can do whatever I want” is an impediment to rational and reasonable policies. But when your neighbor fails to protect their home, they are demonstrating a lack of community value and a selfish attitude towards the rest of the town.

Beyond changing policies about fire-proofing communities, the other major change we need is to recognize the growing threat of wildfire is caused in part by warming climate. And it is not too much hyperbole to suggest that politicians like Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt along with the rest of the Republican Party that collectively seem to ignore science on climate change are helping to burn your home down.

The ultimate cause of rising wildfire severity and extent is not due to fire suppression, lack of logging or other excuses given by the timber industry and their lackeys in Congress including Senator Daines and Congressman Gainforte. The Republican agenda that Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt at the EPA and Ryan Zinke at Interior, refuse to acknowledge is that human-caused climate change is occurring, and that policies like burning coal, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, and even more logging (which studies have shown to increase wildfire spread in many instances).

Climate change is real. Wildfires are here. The most immediate thing we can do as westerners are fire-safe our communities and towns. Next, elect people who pay attention to climate science. Finally, realize that wildfire in the forest is a good thing that maintains healthy forest ecosystems. Wildfire in your neighborhood is a bad thing that can be reduced or prevented with reasonable building codes and mandatory fire-wise regulations.

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

Weekend Edition
December 15, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
What’s Not Happening With Mr. Jones
Timothy M. Gill
The Height of Racial Resentment: White Cops
Andrew Levine
Democrats Have Much to Learn and the Odious Have Much to Teach Them
Luciana Bohne
Operation Jerusalem Capital: Second Balfour Declaration or Arab-Israeli NATO?
Anthony DiMaggio
#MeToo: Women are Speaking Out, Are We Listening?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out Walked Monk
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
The Demoralizing Impact of Trump, But Hope Has Arrived
Samantha Paez – Sandra de los Santos
The Most Dangerous Place for Mexican Women is in the Streets
Martin Billheimer
Assassins of the Image: the CIA as Cultural Gatekeeper
Jérôme Duval
From Slave Trade to Debt: Occupation Disguised as “Discovery”
Vijay Prashad
The October Revolution
John Wight
The Grenfell Fire UK Establishment Circus
Steve Martinot
Twisted Thinking: Police Militarization in Berkeley
Robert Fantina
Juvenile Delinquency in U.S. Government
Dave Lindorff
Stupidity and Blindness Have Destroyed Whatever Democracy the US Ever Had
Pete Dolack
You are Working Harder and Getting Paid Less
Joseph Natoli
The Axioms of the Other
Susan Babbitt
Why Don Quixote?
Ralph Nader
What Does Trump Mean by “Make America Great Again”?
Ramzy Baroud
Towards a New Palestinian Beginning
Binoy Kampmark
Escaping Reality: Roy Moore and the Rage of Decency
Mark Luskus
Corporate Interests Are Warping the Internet
Brian Terrell
A Story of Two Blockades: New York City and Yemen
Ron Jacobs
Sinking in the Swamp
Brian Cloughley
Prepare! Pursue!! Prevail!!!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: The Tanzania-Zambia Train to Nowhere
Jill Richardson
We Agree Assault is Bad, Now Let’s Agree on How to Punish It
Jeremy Corbyn
The Greatest Threats to Our Common Humanity
Walter Clemens – Stephen Advocate
The Amoral Code of America’s Dirty Old Men
Sheldon Richman
Trump & Co.’s Vile Anti-Immigrationism
Jessicah Pierre
Trump’s Cruel Policy on Haitian Refugees
George Wuerthner
Water Rights or Water Privileges?
Nick Pemberton
What I Learned in Ghana 
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s Capitalism
Tom H. Hastings
Stop Trump movement
Thomas Knapp
The Real Internet Censorship Threat
Robert Koehler
Peace on the Far Side of Nuclear Weapons
Kary Love
Christmas Letter to Jesus
Tom Clifford
China: From the Treasure Fleet to One Belt, One Road
Charles R. Larson
Trump’s Blueprint for State Capture
M. Shadee Malaklou
Jay-Z’s 4:44 Moves Black Radical Thought Through and Beyond the Classroom
Michael Dickinson
What About Our Debts, Pope Francis?
Phil Rockstroh
What Was Verifiably Great About America: Fragments of a Memoir Set to a Musical Soundtrack
David Yearsley
Froberger’s Musical Therapy
Edward Curtin
A Man Turns
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail