California is being devastated by fires once again, one destroying the entire town of Paradise, destroying homes, cars, and killing 25 people, a second fire rages in southern California northwest of LA causing multiple homes to burn in affluent Malibu and Oak Park. A third fire has erupted in Ventura County. They are truly a catastrophic perpetuation of California’s human and economic toll!
While wind speeds topping 55 mph have fueled the fires and rapidly propelled them leaving little time to evacuate, the cause of the fires has yet to be officially determined. Dry, brittle groundcover, and winds have said to be the catalyst.
Within the devastation a fight is brewing regarding land management and fire prevention management. While the IAFF, International Association of Firefighters and the California Professional Firefighters Union have called out Trump’s comment that poor management has led to the devastation, there are facts that have been liberally manipulated to serve a purpose.
1) Yes the Federal government is tasked with managing a portion of California’s land, that land includes national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges. It does not include towns, cities, and metropolitan areas.
2) While the IAFF stated that percentage of Federal land in California tops 60%, that is incorrect, it is 45.8% – a statistic they should know…
2) Governor Jerry Brown has done little to nothing to mitigate the constant drought issues that plague California creating a continuum of environmental risk.
3) FIREPAC, through the IAFF is among the top 1% largest PAC’s in the US, it is affiliated with the AFL-CIO whose efforts are predominantly political lobbying. They did NOT support Trump’s election.
4) The president of IAFF is Harold Schaitberger who is also a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council created March 2002 by Executive Order. Council Members of HSCA include Bill Brattan, a Democrat, appointed by Obama. A former NYC Police Commissioner appointed by Bill De-Blasio, he is also Co-Chair on the CBP Integrity Advisory Panel, formed as an adjunct to HSCA by Obama in 2014.
Unfortunately, the California fire situation is political.
According to the UN regarding Fire Management: “From an assessment of megafires it was concluded that the main contributing elements of these wildfires are drought, fire meteorology, accumulation of fuel and homogenous or fire prone landscapes, which are often caused by lack of appropriate land management.
Preventive landscape management is therefore needed and should include policy, cultural, technical, social, financial, organizational, economical and market aspects.
For instance, large homogeneous forests and housing areas shouldn’t be established in regions with fire-prone vegetation, but different land uses should be combined to maintain mosaic features in the landscape with natural firebreaks.
Special attention should be paid to timing of certain agricultural activities e.g agricultural burning should take place before the dry season and before the surrounding landscapes turn fire-prone. Burning should also be avoided during the high winds and hottest time of the day. At the same time alternatives for agriculture fires might be developed.
Local populations should be involved through participatory and/or community based approaches because they are often main actors in landscape management activities, they suffer directly from the fires which threaten their livelihoods and might also be involved in some of the fire causes.”
Bottom line – Land Management within towns, cities and communities should include drought control and landscape features including natural firebreaks.
Is improper land management the fault of firefighters? NO. But Trump never attributed such claims. So why would Unions associated with Firefighters even enter the dialogue? Politics.
California is host to roughly 4,000 to 9,000 fires every year! In 2007 and 2008 over 1.5million acres were scorched.
In 2017, California’s wildfires cost $180 billion. California’s fire budget is $442million. The remainder of the cost, $179,558,000,000, is paid for by taxpayers outside of California through Federal funds and increased insurance premiums. California’s budget covered .2% of the cost.
California has been in the midst of one of the longest droughts in history lasting since December 2011 and continuing according to the US Bureau despite Gov Brown declaring it had ended in 2016.
Over 95% of fires are human caused, including intentional and negligence.
- January 2017, Governor Jerry Brown released his state Budget which included: Emergency drought spending. While recent rains have drenched California, the governor’s emergency drought declaration is still in effect, and the new budget appropriates an additional $188 million in one-time resources for drought relief. Roughly half ($91 million) is allocated to CAL FIRE—the agency dedicated to fire protection and stewardship of the state’s forests—to enhance its firefighting capacities and support the removal of dead trees. The drought has contributed to widespread tree mortality, which has raised concerns that the dead trees might fuel future destructive wildfires.
And what happened to the torrential rains that drenched California? The water evaporated unable to saturate the dry soil, there were no reservoir projects to capture the rain, and runoff spilled into the Pacific Ocean.
Governor’s Budget Summary: Based on aerial surveys, it is estimated over 102 million trees have died as a result of the drought and the effects of bark beetle infestation. In 2016 alone, it is estimated 62 million trees died and millions of additional trees are weakened and expected to die in the coming months and years. These dead and dying trees make forests more susceptible to destructive wild res and pose public safety risks from falling trees for residents and infrastructure in rural, forested communities. The Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) has identified high hazard zones within counties suffering tree mortality.
In October 2015, the Governor issued an emergency declaration directing state and local entities, as well as utilities, to remove dead and dying trees that threaten power lines, roads, structures, and critical community infrastructure.
The Tree Mortality Task Force continues to evaluate the most effective ways to
utilize existing resources to maximize the state and local response to the effects of tree mortality. These efforts include utilizing CAL FIRE equipment and personnel including foresters, hand crews, engine companies, and heavy equipment operators for hazardous tree removal and fuels reduction efforts.
In December 2016, CAL FIRE awarded $15.8 million in grants for a total of 107 projects across 34 counties to support local efforts to remove dead and dying trees that pose
a threat to public health and safety and projects that reduce the threat of wild res
to homes. Butte County, where Paradise, is located received roughly $600,000, and Ventura County about $200,000.
In other words, Trump is correct. California has done little to mitigate what the UN, CAL FIRE, and Governor Brown have declared to be the causal factor of these massive fires – land management. The proof – to date there have been 7,579 Wildfires throughout California and two months left to go.