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Fired Up

The Camp Fire in northern California is now the most destructive fire in California history. With nine people already found burned to death, Donald Trump wasted no time rubbing salt in the wounds by threatening to cut off Federal aid to fight the fires:

There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!

Back in August, Trump claimed that there wasn’t enough water to fight the fires:

California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!

Of course, this is completely false. Firefighters replied “We have plenty of water to fight these fires”.

Trump is so transparent. Do you see the pattern here? The “bad environmental laws” that Trump falsely claims are hurting fire fighting efforts are diverting water into the Pacific Ocean. Diverted? Silly me, I thought that rivers naturally flow into the ocean. In fact, isn’t that how endangered salmon reproduce? If rivers aren’t “diverted to the ocean” then salmon can’t spawn and will go extinct.

So who really needs that water? Large corporate farms, which account for 80% of California’s human water usage. Almonds alone use 10% of that agricultural water, and more than two-thirds of those almonds are exported (much of them to China).

Of course, Trump went ahead and overrode endangered species protections to access water that the firefighters say they don’t need. Because, um, emergency. You know, Republicans aren’t getting enough campaign contributions from agri-business.

Same thing with Trump’s accusation of bad forest mismanagement. When Trump says that we “must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading”, what he really wants is for lumber companies to again be able to do tons of logging, even if this destroys habitat for endangered animals and birds.

Oh, and scientists are saying that climate change is causing more severe wildfires. Seven of California’s 20 most destructive fires have occurred in the last year alone. I guess that must be fake news.

UPDATE: Latest news!

© Matt Davies

Also published on Medium.



  1. notycoon22 wrote:

    That we are having more severe fires in California is not simply due to climate change. It also have to do with politics, funding for government agencies, and a certain amount of misguided management of forest lands. What the Idiot doesn’t include in his asinine statements is the complexity of the wildland situation and the impossibility of creating a one size fits all explanation for the fires.

    Much of the state has suffered through severe drought for 6 of the last 7 years. Two winters ago we had a great winter for moisture in the northern half of the state. That’s been the only replenishing precipitation cycle since 2011. There is a high probability that climate change is driving this modification of the precipitation cycle here. This year, we have had one rain storm of modest proportions since the first week of July and it’s the middle of November, for god’s sake.

    The dramatic drought has led to a high level of stress on vegetation which, as stress does with humans, leads to increased susceptibility to disease and, for plants, insect attack. I’m sure you’ve seen the images of millions of red (meaning recently dead) conifers in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Even when not yet dead, stressed trees can burn more readily.

    There are monumental arguments as to how the reduction in timber harvest on Federal lands has contributed to the densification of forest. In some cases, this may actually be the case, but much research points to certain timber harvest systems as actually creating a fuel bed and standing timber that are more susceptible to fire, not less. It’s not simply one way or the other.

    More importantly, in my mind, is the interruption of natural fire cycles through aggressive suppression for the last 100 years. Forests which prior to active suppression actions may have had a fire cycle of, let’s say, 10 years (fires that would remove dead matter on the ground and kill many of the young trees thus reducing overly dense stands) now see fire every 25 or 50 years allowing growth of the trees that would have been killed by earlier fires and the accumulation of fuels on the ground – fuels which are extremely dry after the droughts.

    An additional reason for the increase in mega-fires is the rapid development of housing in our wildlands. Not only has this created much higher loss valuations, but it has led to a dramatic change in the manner in which fires are fought. The current Camp Fire in central California is a pretty good example of all fire resources being applied to rescue people and protect structures taking away from any opportunity from directly addressing the advancing fire. Frankly, this was a fire that was going to run no matter what, but the same scenario of structure protection tactics instead of suppression strategies greatly hampers fire fighters on virtually every fire in California. Cities and counties have yet to come to grips with the need to reevaluate zoning to control what is, for the most part, uncontrolled expansion of suburban type developments into areas that are highly prone to fires – which is most of rural California.

    There is also the discussion of the need to drastically and rapidly expand fuel management activities. This isn’t necessarily commercial timber harvest, but more typically physical removal of understory vegetation with controlled fire used to clean up afterwards. Research tells us that simply removing ground fuels and small trees is only mildly effective in combating fires. By adding controlled burns to the equation and maintaining a controlled burn schedule that mimics the natural fire cycle, fuel loading can be maintained at a more reasonable level and, therefore, are less likely to produce seriously hot fires.

    So, there are no simple explanations for the increase in mega-fires in California (and other western states, as well) and every fire will have its own blend of causative factors. The Camp Fire in Paradise was driven by sustained winds of 30+ MPH with gusts up to 50+ MPH. The wind aligned with the terrain, amplifying its effect. The town of Paradise is/was, for the most part, on the top of a ridge. Tonight, that same fire, burning several miles to the south, may once again be met by strong winds that will align with the topography.

    Sunday, November 11, 2018 at 12:30 am | Permalink
  2. Greg wrote:

    Well, um, you know, priorities…

    Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thanks Greg. Added to the post.

    Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  4. Wildwood wrote:

    Noty, show some respect. It’s Idiot in Chief.

    You gave a great and comprehensive explanation of what is and is not happening. Thanks for that.

    Thursday, November 15, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink