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How Regulations Made California’s Fires Worse

January 19, 2018

By Paul Homewood



From American Thinker:


After raging through almost all of December, the so-called Thomas fire, California’s largest wildfire ever recorded, was finally contained on January 12.  While the worst is behind us (for now), the fact that last year’s wildfires so violently spun out of control puts the spotlight on the Golden State’s government and its lack of fire prevention measures.

The fires across the state caused unprecedented damage and loss of life.  Unsurprisingly, California governor Jerry Brown was quick to pin the blame on climate change for the forest fires’ ferocity and extraordinary longevity this season.  Whatever truth there may be to this, it would be a mistake to gloss over how misguided policies and regulations have hurt California’s ability to prevent and respond to fires.

According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), shrubs and live and dead vegetation are the most important factor in forest fires, being an easily ignitable fuel source that helps spread the flames quickly over vast distances.  For a dry and warm state prone to fires, regular clearing measures removing this vegetation should be common sense.  However, California has enacted several laws that heavily restrict such vital fire-preventing measures as logging, removal of dead trees, and clearing of dry underbrush.

During a congressional hearing in May, California congressman Tom McClintock blasted environmentalists for having fervently opposed such measures since the early 1970s.  Instead, they have been advocating that forests be left to their own devices – despite the fact that thousands of years of history shows that forests need to be appropriately maintained in order to reap all their benefits and reduce the risk of fires.  This understanding of the environment has too often been trumped by politics in California.

When a 2013 environmental impact report advocated the benefits of large-scale vegetation management in San Diego County, activists violently rejected its conclusions.  As in the decades before, concerns over wildlife and environmental impacts were ultimately more important than the safety of fellow citizens, with the result that brush and dead vegetation were allowed to accumulate unimpeded for more than forty years.

Ironically, 2013 also saw a range of massive wildfires across California that were exacerbated by the U.S. Forest Service failing to follow through on crucial tree-thinning projects.  The same happened immediately before the recent devastating fires, with the U.S. Forest Service once again neglecting to clear brush in the woods around Los Angeles as originally planned.

Worse still, government agencies have actively stymied rescue efforts.  In this case, it was CAL FIRE withholding a license for a Boeing 747 Global SuperTanker firefighting plane, capable of dropping almost 20,000 gallons of fire retardant on the inferno below.  Although the license was finally granted in September, precious months had passed during which the plane could have deployed to offer much needed fire-suppressing support across California.  The Boeing subsequently proved instrumental in containing much of the fires ravaging California in December – less than a week after Donald Trump declared the California fires a national emergency.

As the SuperTanker example shows, private resources are indispensable for a swift and effective response in national emergencies.  Top-of-the-line equipment like the SuperTanker is heavily reliant on functioning fixed-base operators (FBOs) for refueling and replenishing payloads.  In the midst of the fires, a campaign to impose price regulations on these very FBOs emerged, threatening to undermine the first line of defense in providing essential services during natural disasters.

If history is a lesson, more regulation certainly isn’t what’s needed in times of emergency, especially not if these regulations seek to counteract the market forces necessary for rescue efforts to continue their operations.  Luckily, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reached the same conclusions amid the December wildfires.  In a document published on December 7, the FAA strongly argued that such price controls are unnecessary, seeing how FBOs need to adapt to the pressures of business realities that are often beyond their control.

While the FAA acted for the greater good in this instance, the same can’t be expected from California’s authorities.  Luckily, other states have been taking note.  Oregon, a state equally prone to wildfires, has successfully prevented the outbreak of large-scale fires since it implemented comprehensive thinning and pruning measures in the 1990s.  Meanwhile, citizens in New Mexico are petitioning the state legislature to facilitate forest management so that fires at the scale of those in California can be prevented.

California would be smart to cut the environmentalist zeal from its policies and follow Oregon’s or New Mexico’s lead.  A catastrophe the likes of which we witnessed in 2017 should more than suffice to trigger a rethinking of old approaches.  Deregulation means not only standing up to the green lobby, but also protecting citizens’ lives and homes in national emergencies.

  1. Dave Ward permalink
    January 19, 2018 10:39 am

    “However, California has enacted several laws that heavily restrict such vital fire-preventing measures as logging, removal of dead trees, and clearing of dry underbrush”

    Is California turning into a fascist state?

    • keith permalink
      January 19, 2018 11:37 am

      No, I think you will find it is already one.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      January 19, 2018 7:45 pm

      “Is California turning into a fascist state?”

      California turned into a Fascist state decades ago.

      • Paddy permalink
        January 20, 2018 7:32 am

        California might be described as a sh*t hole.

  2. Rowland H permalink
    January 19, 2018 12:05 pm

    Much the same is happening in Australia, I believe.

  3. January 19, 2018 12:38 pm

    My niece and her husband were caught in the Thomas fire. They were evacuated twice. The second time in the middle of the night. Their home is in Gobernador Canyon outside Carpinteria near Santa Barbara. Lynn, said, that as they sped away in the night, fire fighting vehicles were coming in, but she thought she would never see her house again. They have 8 acres on a knoll in the valley and fire had changed direction and was racing along the ridge at the top of their property. Fire trucks cannot get up their long, winding driveway so smaller vehicles were used. She describes the fire crews as “miracle workers.” Her pictures show that the fire was stopped at the bottom of the ridge near the house.

    Now there have been rains. They are once again out of their home with the rain bringing mudslides. Although the house is safe, they have no utilities now and a carbarn lower down has 18″ of mud. Some of Rogers collection of classic Ferrari cars have been pushed around.

    Rowland H–it would happen in Australia as they have the same Mediterranean Sclerophyll Formations as California where it is called Chaparral. It is composed of thick leaved shrubs chock full of resins. They burn easily and swiftly which maintains the formation. However, when these natural flash fires are suppressed and other forms of brush clearing blocked, this is what you get.

  4. sxyxs permalink
    January 19, 2018 1:06 pm

    Well-when people surpress wildfires(which are btw the most normal thing in nature) with success for decades the woods will accumulate so much energy
    that eventually a wildfire will break out that that noone can stop for a long time.

    Instead of 4-5 average wildfires within 5 decades you will get a superwildfire that’ll unleash almost the combined energy of those 4-5 average wildfires.
    And as huge parts of california are deserts((a result of AGW and not of millions of years natural climate in this region 🙂
    Wildfires can just be surpressed until a certain point.

    A way to prevent such scenarioy maybe pulling out dead wood out of this forrests
    systematically and using it for heating.

    • January 20, 2018 1:07 pm

      This information comes from The Mercury News: By PAUL ROGERS | | Bay Area News Group
      PUBLISHED: January 25, 2014 at 9:23 am | UPDATED: August 12, 2016 at 10:26 am

      The study involved studies of tree rings, sediment deposits and other available natural evidence during the past 1000 years. During that time period they have documented multiple droughts lasting 10-20 years. Two they list as “megadroughts.” One, beginning in 850 AD lasted 240 years. Following a 50 year respite, another began and lasted for 180 years.

      Scott Stine, professor of geography and environmental studies at Cal State East Bay, states: “We continue to run California as if the longest drought we are ever going to encounter is about seven years, We’re living in a dream world.” He further states that the past century has been among the wettest of the last 7,000 years.

      Another research scientist, Bill Patzert, oceanographer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, reports that the West is in a 20-year drought beginning in 2000. It is due to the commencement of a phenomenon referred to as a “negative Pacific decadal oscillation.” Historically, this has been linked to extreme high-pressure ridges which block storms.

      The study above involved a look at the last thousand years. None of this is the result of man’s activities and actually has gone on for thousands of years. If you want to talk about millions of years, it is necessary to take the continental shifts into account. The Laramide Orogeny which created the Rocky Mountains some 80-55 mya had a huge effect on weather patterns.

  5. A C Osborn permalink
    January 19, 2018 3:09 pm

    Greens Kill.
    They put Gaia before humans.
    They are some of the most dangerous people on Earth.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      January 19, 2018 3:17 pm

      They put their idea of what gaia is before humans

      • January 19, 2018 3:36 pm

        Observation suggests that California has more than its fair share of Greens. The good news has to be that other places must have less than a fair share of such idiots.

  6. Vernon E permalink
    January 19, 2018 3:56 pm

    Interesting. Paul’s presentation of the US temperatures over the 1900’s bears out precisely my personal recollections of life in Rhyl over the same periods. Like all the UK coastal resorts Rhyl (already established long before I came along in 1939) had glorious summers with packed beaches, tens of thousands of deck-chairs, open air swimming pools etc. The weather started to change for the worse about 1959 and those facilities disappeared. This coincided with Franco’s relaxations on travel to Spain and the onset of affordable air travel – a perfect storm for the UK coastal towns. All those wonderful holidays have been written out of history to suit the greenies!

  7. mwhite permalink
    January 19, 2018 5:15 pm

    “Forest Fire Burn Acreage Plummeting”

  8. January 19, 2018 7:00 pm

    Reblogged this on HiFast News Feed.

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