3 Jul 2008, 9:43am
The 2008 Fire Season
by admin

Thursday July 3 Fire Update

In California the Basin Fire jumped containment lines yesterday and has spread north of Big Sur. Fire managers are now saying that Carmel is threatened. The Basin Fire is over 60,000 acres. Together with the Indians Fire over 140,000 acres of the Los Padres NF have burned in the last month.

The Gap Fire in the Goleta Hills north of Santa Barbara is 2,400 acres and growing.

The Piute Mountain Fire is 15,000 acres and spreading north and east.

A new fire, the Yankee Fire is burning at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego.

In total nearly 1,800 fires have occurred in California in June, burning over 500,000 acres (790 sq miles) to date. More than 60 of those fires are still uncontained, some not even staffed, despite over 20,000 fire fighters assigned.

Roughly $200,000,000 have been spent on fire suppression in June in California. Thirty-one residences have burned and more than 8,000 remain threatened. Those numbers will grow again today.

One firefighter was killed Tuesday in a helicopter collision along with 5 other people. Firefighter Michael MacDonald, a member of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots, an elite Bureau of Indian Affairs-funded Native American firefighting crew based on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana, was being transported to a hospital from the Walla Valley Fire in Grand Canyon National Park when two medical helicopters collided. A nurse was critically injured and two emergency workers on the ground were injured when the one of the aircraft exploded after the crash.

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag warning for thunderstorms along the east side of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington through 10pm tonight.

3 Jul 2008, 12:20pm
by Kurt K.

I live in Malibu where we have terrible fires every year (one fire last year literally burned to my front door). What’s going on in N. Cal is moving to the central coast. Give it two months and S. Cal will be burning as well. This is scary, and there isn’t enough equipment and personnel to battle Mother Nature.

(I am wildland fire expert, wrote a novel about wildland firefighters: One Foot In The Black, by Kurt Kamm)

5 Jul 2008, 9:37am
by bear bait

I have been looking at the Big Sur fire galleries on the Internet. Groves of younger redwood in a sea of brush, oaks, and dead oaks. How different from 200 years ago. Total protection of the area has doomed it. No annual anthropogenic fire to keep fuel levels low. No Spanish cattle grazing across vast grassy pastures. No tule elk, herds of deer, no grizz to eat acorns, beef, elk calves, stranded whales, seals and sea lions on the beach, clams and kelp. Just a big old brush patch with some groovy homes or resorts here and there. Why it has not burned sooner than now should be the question, and once the fires are out, what will be the land management and land ethic decision to keep the fuel levels now lowered by fire, low in the future?

I have a friend who had the entirety of his 1000 acre plus ranch, flush with well thinned stands of young pine and fire, decimated by fire last summer. Hardly a tree survived the heat. He logged what he could sell, and piled dead trees for later burning as he created fire breaks. And then he seeded grass over 700 acres of burned trees. Recent thunderstorms dropped rain, and the flush of grass is stunning. In a sea of burned black, soil gray public lands, sits this little emerald glowing in the early summer sun. Deer and elk are cropping the new grass, and the cows in the meadow would give anything to cross the fence and eat from the new restaurant menu. A massive conflagration and an ill timed USFS back burn turned his retirement spot into a truck load of sour lemons. He chose to be proactive, and he added what the land needed to become lemonade, and he his thrilled. There is life on his little piece of the landscape, and none on 150,000 acres of “protected” national forest. What a contrast! What a comparison! And he did nothing more than our ancestors on this land would have done: manage it for him and wildlife.

The people who lived on the Big Sur before artists and golfers carefully tended the wild. They helped the plants that helped them survive, and they did what they could to discourage the plants that hurt them. And with the management of the vegetation, animals that were useful, and necessary, were provided for, and ones that did not found succor elsewhere.

The California plein air painters of a century ago could still find large areas that represented aboriginal landscape management, and those paintings show the whole array of color that those vast fields and meadows held through the seasons. This fire event holds the promise of a return to those landscapes if human management of the aboriginal type might be allowed. To do nothing is to once again fill the hills and valleys with fuel for future fires, and the Big Sur becomes nothing more than the LA hills in a more northern location.

Now is the time for people to put the pressure on land mangers and management agencies to produce a plan for renewal, and not a plan of protection that results in a frequent high intensity fire regime. It is a chance to return to holistic management, and not benign neglect. I have my fingers crossed.

5 Jul 2008, 11:08am
by Mike

The thing is, it did burn before in the 187,000 acre Marble Cone Fire in 1977. That was one of the biggest fires in CA state history and burned over much of the same ground that is burning now.

During the last 30 years absolutely zero stewardship was done. The brush grew up and presto, 30 years later it is exploding again.

The combo Indians/Basin Fire will cost upwards of $100 million. That ain’t chump change. Imagine if a small percentage of that had been spent on restoration, what a huge savings we would be experiencing today.

Instead we do the hands-off approach until predictable, preventable disaster strikes again. And people are dumbfounded, “How could this have happened?” They have no memory. Our society has group amnesia. If X wasn’t on TV yesterday, most people have no knowledge of X, no memory, no clue.

And the Big Sur fires will pass from consciousness as soon as the fires are out, possibly even before. There will be something new to be concerned about for 15 minutes, and something new after that. It’s Mass Attention Deficit Disorder (MADD).

Like you my hopes for the future are high, but my expectations are low.

6 Jul 2008, 10:54am
by Liz Ditz

Minor niggle: the header is incorrect — reads “June 3″ not “July 3″. Post on fire and citizen journalism is here.

6 Jul 2008, 11:12am
by Mike

Fixed. THANK YOU, Liz. Amazing what a person can’t see in his own writing. Feel free to correct my self-blinded errors anytime.



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