Stand down from Western wildfires
Posted: 16 July 2013 01:47 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Do any of you folks live in an Urban Wilderness Interface?

There’s a very interesting Op-ed in the July 12, 2013 issue of High Country News by John N. Maclean, “Stand down from Western wildfires,” that should interest you.

https://www.hcn.org/articles/stand-down-from-western-wildfires/article_view?src=feat?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email&b_start:int=0

here’s part of it:

. . . It’s time for a more lasting and meaningful stand-down in this war, which mostly rages in the West. The cost in lives and treasure is just too high, and the battle has lost its focus; the national vision for fighting wildland fire has not kept up with reality.

As wildfires grow in size and severity, driven by climate change and other factors, we send tens of thousands of young men and women out every year with the implicit understanding that they will fight harder, and take greater risks, when homes are threatened. And millions more houses are threatened than ever before. Recent surveys show that about 9 percent of the nation’s land area, containing 39 percent of all houses—44.8 million units—is now part of the flammable wildland-urban interface. That’s what the Yarnell firefighters were doing—protecting houses.

We need to encourage firefighters to exercise more caution, even when homes are at stake. Let the fires that are riskiest for firefighters burn. And assure the firefighters that the nation will have their backs when the inevitable complaints pour in.

We have entered a new world of wildland fire, and it’s going to get worse. It’s hotter and drier; fire seasons begin earlier and last longer. Again and again, we hear firefighters say, as they did after the Arizona deaths, “These are the most extreme fire conditions we’ve ever seen.” . . .

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Posted: 16 July 2013 09:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s kind of like building a house actually on the beach sand of a beach along the Atlantic seaboard: you get what you pay for: a residence which will be around until the next hurricane inevitably rolls in. At least, in fire-prone areas, it’s possible (although expensive) to build fireproof houses. Concrete or something. While I can certainly feel sympathy for the firefighters who do such demanding work, I find it hard to feel that sympathetic for the people who live in those areas who lose their homes. Maybe I’m just a bit sociopathic.

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Posted: 16 July 2013 10:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m with you, Andy. I find it hard, very hard, to feel sorry for the people who live in such areas. They know damn well there’s a good chance their house could burn down every year but they live there anyway. It’s idiotic. I feel the same about people who live in Tornado Alley or places prone to hurricanes, mudslides, earthquakes and the like. You know the risks. Don’t expect any sympathy from me when your house burns down or an earthquake crushes your condo.

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Posted: 17 July 2013 06:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Maybe I’m just a bit sociopathic.

Or realistic perhaps? I was stationed in California from 1979 to 1996 and it seemed that Malibu was always getting burned down from wildfires or flooded out in the wake of torrential annual rains or trying to slide into the sea during or right after an earthquake. People kept building and rebuilding there anyway, and often in the exact same disaster prone spots.

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Posted: 17 July 2013 05:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Wow, EOC, you must have been living in an alternate universe Malibu from where my parents lived.  They had a two story place at the high tide level, and they never had any problem with flooding, fires or earthquakes.  There were occasional fires in the dry brush on the hillsides behind them, but very few houses usually got damaged.  I’ve gone through about eight earthquakes in the seventy-three years I’ve lived here, and other than being awakened by my bed shaking a bit twice, I’ve never had any damage.  In fact, the only distress I’ve ever had was not having my girlfriend in bed with me and my parents at work when one of the two shakers occurred.  Ok, so I’m lazy.  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 17 July 2013 06:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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TA, there is no such thing as a fireproof house. My best friends lost their weekend cabin in the Bastrop fire two years ago. It had concrete walls. The little bit that was left after the fire so brittle is would turn to powder when you stepped on it. Their cast iron kitchen sink was barely recognizable.

Having lived in California and Kansas for almost ten years each I’ll take earthquakes over tornadoes any day. Having said that, my father built a house in Kansas 41 years ago and it is still there despite DM’s misplaced hyperbole.

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Posted: 17 July 2013 09:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Wow, EOC, you must have been living in an alternate universe Malibu from where my parents lived.

Nope. Same universe. It was kind of hard to miss all this when the wildfires were all over the news and you could see the places along the Pacific Coast Highway where things go washed out.

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Posted: 17 July 2013 11:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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DarronS - 17 July 2013 06:24 PM

TA, there is no such thing as a fireproof house. My best friends lost their weekend cabin in the Bastrop fire two years ago. It had concrete walls. The little bit that was left after the fire so brittle is would turn to powder when you stepped on it. Their cast iron kitchen sink was barely recognizable.

As Bill Clinton might have said, it depends on on the defintion of “fireproof.” Yeah, if a fire is intense enough, pretty much anything in it’s way is toast, figuratively speaking.

Last year, I drove through Yellowstone, and learned that in 1988, some particularly nasty fires ravaged the park. I could still see very clear evidence in 2012 - 24 years later. Charred ground was still there, and the treelines were still decimated. The undergrowth was just starting to get repopulated with a burst of saplings which were (at a guess) maybe up to 5 years old. Having never seen such a fire in person, even seeing that put them in a bit of perspective. Nasty stuff. And part of the ecology. I also remember seeing the aftermath of a similar fire in the Black Hills on the same trip. That was on the trip home, from Idaho to Michigan. On the way there, I had just missed the Colorado Springs record fire of that summer by about half a day, and saw the more immediate aftermath of that fire in spots, too. But not in areas which had been flash fires (I think that’s the term) where the fires are so intense that the trees which normally weather them get completely incinerated by the heat, like was the aftermath in the area of Yellowstone that I saw.

Maybe 50 years ago, people might be forgiven for not understanding the power of the ecological systems in which they live. But not today.

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Posted: 19 July 2013 11:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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TromboneAndrew
Yea, it took the 1988 Yellowstone fire to convince the Federal government to work with Mother Nature. The people of Wyoming had been telling the Fed’s to let the fires burn to save the trees and feed the animals for many years but the Fed’s said they had the experts and knew better than the people of Wyoming about how to manage the land.  The fed’s had to learn the hard way and destroyed part of Yellowstone Park that will take hundreds of years to recover.
They now let the fires burn.

Equal Opportunity Curmudgeon,
I saw the same thing years ago, in the back hills of Malibu the dead grass would build up for several years, then a big fire would leave the ground unprotected from the rainy season. I always thought that area only had two seasons, wet and dry.
I went up in the area to check out the grass in the hills behind Malibu to see if it could be eaten by sheep or goats. And I knew that the problem was only in some areas, and I wanted to know how big these problem areas were. I thought I could bring in some sheep herders in and help solve the problem. Did not get much interest from the State and I knew to stay away from the Cities until there was an operation up and running.
I found that a lot of the hill land was owned by Bank of America. And by state law they were required to keep the fire hazard down. I talked to the bank and they wanted me to make a presentation.
Then I had another project I was working on break and had to drop the herding project altogether. About fifteen years latter this magazine article was explaining how the cities were paying sheepherders to control the fire hazards in the hills along the coastal areas of S. California. Made me smile.

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