Monday, August 20, 2012
Fire, I'll take you to burn
(Oops the original title of this post was incorrect. Upon verification for the and looking for a photo de jour the correction was made and now stands. Sorries to Arthur Brown.)
There are currently 42 large fires burning in the west. The bulk of them are in northern California, Idaho, and western Montana. It's been an odd year weather wise that created ripe conditions for large fires. We had a wet winter and cool and wet conditions that lasted well into early summer. But once things dried out the grasses that grew took off creating the situation we have now. I think we're somewhat fortunate here on the west side of the Cascade mountains in that we've had more than average rain this year. Meaning the lawns here didn't turn crunchy brown by mid July as they normally do.
Here's a neat little Fire map in case you're wondering what's going on fire wise.
There's a couple of issues we're experiencing that aren't making things better. We're back to trying to extinguish every small fire before it turns into a major blaze. That may be all well and good for populated areas where homes can be lost but it flies in the face of mother nature. Fires in the forest are a natural thing. They burn creating the start of new life in the forest. But we're back to Smokey Bear telling us that all forest fires are a bad thing and "only you can prevent forest fires". Sorry Smokey I can't stop lightening or idiots who don't tend to their campfires.
Another issue is the cutbacks. We're using tanker planes that are over 40 years old and way beyond their service life. All the companies now are private contractors with the exception of prison inmates and some help from the national guard at times. For the government fighting forest fires is much like a fire extinguisher. It sits on a shelf collecting dust until it's needed. It's just that when it is needed you hope it works. I have a lot of respect for the people on the fire lines. Working 16 hour days with only 2 half hour breaks is a bit more than this old body could handle. I've done my share of long shifts but never that long. I once did a 19 hour shift with only one 45 minute break but that was years ago.
The last issue is global warming. Deny it if you will but it's effects are felt in the higher mountain ranges of the west. With higher mean temperatures the grasses and small shrubs that grow at higher elevations are gone. That may seem like a blessing with less fuel for a fire but it's bad because the forest floor is no longer protected by a ground cover that holds moisture. That leaves dry standing timber to burn freely when fire does hit and creates a situation ripe for insects to further damage the trees . And not much is growing back. Try as we might to control mother nature she always wins in the end.