In the news, as per late summer in California all the time, are more stories of raging wild fires that men and machines are being deployed against. I really think it’s time we stop this.
I have friends back east that ask me all the time how bad the fires are out here. They ask me if I saw them or if I was affected by them. They tell me it seems like California is always on fire. It’s so dangerous to live out here, etc…
I try to use an analogy to explain the scope of what they are asking me. If every State from Massachusetts to South Carolina merged into one large State, that one State would be the size of California. With that in mind, if a forest fire started in Virginia, is anyone in Boston going to see it? Be affected by it? Would Bostonites feel, “in danger?”
Is Massachusetts or Rhode Island or even New Jersey a dangerous place to live when fires break out in South Carolina, Connecticut or Maryland? If every disaster that hit every State from South Carolina to Massachusetts were attributed to ONE state name, everyone would think that ONE state was dangerous too.
Decades have come and gone since I last saw a forest fire. I sometimes see the smoke in the sky from fires hundreds of miles away, but all that does to me is make for pretty sunsets.
The other fact I tell my friends is that California is by and large, almost entirely forest and desert. Almost 70% of Californians live near the coast. That means the majority of California is unpopulated and wild. Yet we spend billions every year fighting forest fires in the middle of nowhere for no discernible purpose.
If a tree burns in the woods and nobody sees it, does anybody care? No, I don’t think so. We need to stop wasting money and lives on fighting fires in the millions of acres of no-mans-land that is the bulk of California.
Every year that we send people to die, and waste billions on making it rain from airplanes out in BFE is another year where the deadwood piles up. Every year that goes by where the forest is not sanitized by fire of all its accumulated fuel is just another layer of fuel laid down upon the last.
After decades of this insanity, we now have “mega-fires” that are huge and require a phenomenal amount of resources to deal with it. Fighting forest fires is like a “Full-Employment Act” for firemen. The more forest fires they knock down, the more fuel is stacked up for the next one, requiring even MORE firemen and resources.
It’s like cooking bacon in a skillet and never cleaning out the grease. Eventually the grease gets thick enough to catch on fire, but instead of getting rid of the grease, you put a lid on the skillet and smother the fire. Hey. The grease is STILL THERE. So how did that solve anything? The next grease fire will only be bigger. Eventually putting a lid on it might not be enough to stop it. If this happens with forest fires, we are going to see some very serious made-for-TV documentaries in the future about some massive death toll fire that burned with the heat and ferocity of Hell itself.
As humans, we see a fire, we want to put it out. Unfortunately, that is causing more damage than just letting it burn. The only time a fire should be fought is if homes are in imminent danger of being burned down, and I am not talking about spending $1B to save a cabin in the woods. I’d rather we paid the owner of the cabin to rebuild, significantly cheaper than $1B.
I am talking about a town or edge of suburbia, where it matters – and the effort should be limited to protecting THAT structure or THOSE structures – not encircling the fire with 360 degrees of death and flushing money down the drain for two weeks to protect nothing but more forest.
Forest fires kill off weak and dead trees. They return nutrients to the soil and allow pioneer species to grow again bringing even more nutrients to the soil once they are crowded out and die by the trees that eventually replace them. Bugs, diseases, blights, non-native invasive species are all wiped out by forest fires. Newer, stronger, healthier trees rise up from the ashes.
Humans rely on people walking in front of buses, being hit by trains, smoking, eating too much, using drugs beyond moderation, engaging in risky sexual behavior, failing to finish high school, being genetically unable to make a series of good decisions leading to their demise – these are all ways that the human race culls the weak out from among our population to ensure that only the strongest survive and breed. Forest fires are the culling of the forest, and we are inhibiting its ability to maintain healthy stock from which to procreate from.
Lastly, as anything that is run by the Government, fighting forest fires is expensive and gets more expensive every year. If our goal is to put out every flame that pops up across California then there is no end to the “need argument” by all of the various government agencies involved for more planes, more helicopters, more fire fighters, more, more, more….
Could we lower the death rate in your town by putting an ambulance on every single corner? Sure. Why don’t we do that? If we know response times and therefore lives saved would increase if we just put an ambulance on every street corner, why don’t we do that? Money, right? Like it or not, you have made the decision to not pay for something that would save lives, and people die because of your decision. But that’s okay, because that is a rational decision. One ambulance is too little, 5,000 ambulances is too many, so somewhere in the middle is the “right” amount of ambulances and no matter how well you dial that in, people will still die that would not have, had you had 5,000 ambulances. That’s life.
So if we are saying every forest fire has to be put out like every human life must be saved, then we will end up paying for a fire tanker and fire fighter on every corner – unless we accept logic and reason and realize that millions of acres of fires burning nothing nobody cares about is the rational solution.
It’s cheaper, safer and healthier for the forest to let it burn, so let it burn.