Thursday, August 02, 2018

California's Devastating Fires Are Man-Caused -- But Not In The Way They Tell Us

Chuck Devore

California is once again on fire. Northern California’s Carr Fire has killed six people, two of them firefighters, and continues to burn out of control, claiming more than 700 homes and about 100,000 acres.
As a citizen-soldier in the California Army National Guard for two decades, I often heard the gallows humor quip that California’s four seasons were: flood, fire, earthquake and riot.
But, what was once an expected part of living in the Golden State is now blamed on larger forces. A crisis, we are told, should never go to waste.
In that vein, the Sacramento Bee editorial board blamed the Carr Fire foursquare on a man-caused buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In an editorial headlined, “The Carr Fire is a terrifying glimpse into California’s future,” they write, “This is climate change, for real and in real time. We were warned that the atmospheric buildup of man-made greenhouse gas would eventually be an existential threat.”
...The problem with the Bee’s editorial is that making a passionate argument is no substitute for the truth.
In 2005 while a freshman California Assemblyman, I had the chance to visit Northern California and meet with the forest product industry professionals who grew, managed, and harvested trees on private and public lands. They told me of a worrisome trend started years earlier where both federal and state regulators were making it more and more difficult for them to do their jobs. As a result, timber industry employment gradually collapsed, falling in 2017 to half of what it was 20 years earlier, with imports from Canada, China, and other nations filling domestic need.
As timber harvesting permit fees went up and environmental challenges multiplied, the people who earned a living felling and planting trees looked for other lines of work. The combustible fuel load in the forest predictably soared. No longer were forest management professionals clearing brush and thinning trees.
But, fire suppression efforts continued. The result was accurately forecast by my forest management industry hosts in Siskiyou County in 2005: larger, more devastating fires—fires so hot that they sterilized the soil, making regrowth difficult and altering the landscape. More importantly, fires that increasingly threatened lives and homes as they became hotter and more difficult to bring under control.


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