Skip to comments.Radical Environmentalists Have Blood of 19 Arizona Firefighters on Their Hands
Posted on 08/05/2013 6:31:46 AM PDT by Kaslin
Nineteen firefighters died fighting a forest fire in Arizona earlier this summer. Curiously, almost no one is talking about why it happened, only that it was a tragedy. Arizona Deputy State Forestry Director Jerry Payne has been the only one to speak out about the cause, and he backtracked immediately afterwards, apologizing for what he said. He claimed that the superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots violated wildlife safety protocols while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30th, 2013, 60 miles north of Phoenix.
According to Payne, the superintendents violations allegedly included not knowing the location of the fire, failing to have a spotter serve as a lookout, and leading his crew through thick, unburned vegetation near a wildfire. There wasnt a proper escape route in case the fire changed direction; the firemen would have to bushwhack through thick brush to retreat. The firefighters lost their lives when the fire suddenly changed direction and came at them, traveling 12 miles an hour. The fire destroyed more than 100 of the roughly 700 homes in Yarnell, burning 13 square miles. Flames shot up to 20 feet in the air.
The account given by Payne is not the whole picture. Firefighting today is not what it was 20 years ago. Fires 20 years ago moved slowly, at 2-3 mph. Today they move at speeds of 10-12 mph. There are three reasons for this. First, people are building more homes near or within forests. In the past, no one dared to build a house in the forest, because there werent fire departments everywhere. As one retired firefighter told me, Try to find a photo of a house in the middle of the forest from 100 years ago. You cant.
Secondly, environmentalists started insisting that every forest fire be put out to save trees. Natural forest fires, which are necessary to preserve the balance of nature, are no longer allowed to burn. The overabundance of trees has created an easy path for forest fires. Firefighters who used to easily outrun forest fires can no longer do so. An op-ed in the Los Angeles Times explained the phenomenon last year, Decades of heroic victories against fire led to gradual defeat in the larger war. Fuel builds up, and when it ignites, the fires burn hotter, faster and more destructively.
The third reason there are faster wildfires is due to environmentalists efforts to shut down logging in the name of protecting the latest fashionable endangered species. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have filed federal lawsuits against the U.S. Forest Service to stop it from thinning forests, and injunctions have been granted paralyzing the agency while years of litigation drag on. These include lawsuits against President George W. Bushs 2003 Healthy Forests Initiative, which allowed more thinning of forests to prevent fires. Radical environmental groups are opposed to the removal of trees from old-growth forests. But dead trees need to be removed or burned in controlled fires, otherwise they present a highly flammable risk from lightning or arson. Ironically, mega-wildfires are burning down forests where logging has been prohibited a waste of thousands of acres of trees.
These three factors have caused vegetation to become so dense across the country that it is too risky to attempt prescribed fires anymore. Many of the species the radical environmentalists claim need protection, such as the Spotted Owl, will not be saved by keeping more forest land standing. The Spotted Owl was already headed for extinction in the Northwest before the draconian policies were put into place. In 1990, green activists got regulations passed requiring timber companies to leave at least 40 percent of the old-growth forests intact within a 1.3 mile radius of any Spotted Owl nest or activity site. The Clinton administration used The Endangered Species Act to keep old-growth forests untouched. In 2008, liberal federal district judge Susan Bolton upheld a U.S. Forest and Wildlife decision to declare 8,600,000 acres (35,000 km2) in Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico as critical habitat for the owl. Yet no one has any idea how many Spotted Owls are in the Southwest now. Bill Block, manager of the Forest Service's wildlife and terrestrial ecosystems program in Flagstaff, Ariz., told the New York Times a couple of years ago, "We don't know if we've got 5,000 owls or 10,000 owls, because there's never been a concerted effort to figure that out," he said. Ironically, the biggest threat to the Spotted Owl has become the mega-wildfires.
Forest fires used to burn across just a few acres of land. "Now, were firmly in the multiple 100,000-acre landscape fire, Professor Wally Covington of Northern Arizona University lamented. Its not uncommon for a forest fire to exceed 150 square miles. University of Idaho forestry expert Dr. Leon Neuenschwander has stated, Flames are 90 feet tall instead of 3 feet tall.
Part of the solution is to have people who choose to live near public forests help manage the risk. Libertarian writer John Stossel suggests that people who choose to live in risky areas, such as on oceanfront property, should be required to assume the risk, instead of leaving it to the government to bail them out. Developers should also be required to assume part of this risk, as a disincentive to build homes in risky areas.
Congress needs to start a full investigation into the radical environmental policies that led to this tragedy. Eighty-three firefighters died last year. This year will surpass that number, as 70 fatalities have been reported already. How many more firefighters must die before someone stops the radical environmentalists? They will only agree to cutting down small-diameter trees and the thinning of forests near communities. There are several laws that must be changed, including the National Environmental Policy Act. It has been used to prohibit logging and controlled forest fires. The Forest Service 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule (Roadless Rule), implemented during the last days of the Clinton administration, should be repealed. It prohibits roads on millions of acres of National Forests, making them off limits to logging or other use. Today, 58.5 million acres, or about 30 percent, of National Forests are roadless.
There will always be wildfires caused by lightning and arsonists, as well as species that become extinct due to natural causes. To pretend otherwise reeks of an agenda an agenda to move Americans into urban areas and to reduce mans technological control over nature. These socialist goals will leave more and more rural Americans and firefighters in danger, since no American can outrun an out of control forest fire.
I know the answer is never, but why?
I’m not one to pull a punch against the enviros, but this argument is a bit strange. Logging targets mature trees, not brush, whereas brush buildup is precisely what fuels the worst wildfires. Not sure how logging would help — in fact, you could argue that logging would make wildfires worse by opening the canopy for more young growth and brush.
While I have no great love for environmentalists, radical or otherwise, they do not write laws or set policy.
It seems to me that the elected “leaders” who caved to the demands of the radical environmentalists are the ones truly at fault.
They don't care. They think humans are just parasites on 'Mother earth' and it would be better for the planet if we were just exterminated.
Sorry, but that statement simply is not true
I don’t understand why building homes in a forest makes forest fires move faster. Other than that, good article.
There were some nasty fires in WI and MI during the logging of the primeval mature forest era.
At the same time any of the other myriad of communist groups pat themselves on the back for achieving their goals in the US.
As you say; the problem is that there is a thick growth of fuel - both brush and dead trees - in modern managed forests. I'm guessing that this is because for decades any fires that start up naturally have not been allowed to run their course, and because no artificial clearing has been allowed.
Fires in natural forests burns through the 'easy' fuel - brush and dead trees. The fuel pockets aren't thick enough to 'connect' over large areas.
But in a toxically-managed forest the fuel builds up and up - and the fuel 'connects' across miles and miles. Any fire that start in such a forest rapidly become vicious, fast, huge - and profoundly unnatural.
This is a great article - really thought-provoking.
With logging comes access and the ability to get to a fire. During the process, slash is dealt with in one form or another. In this area, single tree selection is done with a precription that enhances age/size mix. We manage the land to prevent wildfire as well. Please find me anyone who wants his/her investment to go up in smoke. Also, ask any fire fighter whether they’d rather fight a ground fire or a crown fire. Separation helps.
I thought the article was implying that people knew it was unwise to build anything more expensive or irreplaceable than a log cabin in a wood because one day a natural fire might catch nearby.
I have no idea if that’s true though. I guess there might be a lot of reasons why single houses don’t appear in the middle of woods - infrastructure costs for instance.
In the past four years there have been major wildland fires in Arizona and New Mexico that either may not have occurred or the area burned would have been greatly minimized if it were not for environmental rules prohibiting logging or brush clearing. The Yarnell Hill fire is not one of them.
As in California coastal regions, heavy brush, commonly called chaparral, covered hillsides and small valleys. It has no economic value except maybe as forage and cover for deer and semi-arid mammals and birds. Traditionally it has been consumed by lightning caused fires - this area had not burned previously for over 40 years. During that time humans have built homes in an among the brush and huge boulders that make up the landscape here. Protecting these structures were the main purpose for deployment of the hotshots.
Unlike the implication in the article that over-zealous environmental policies were at fault here and led to the deaths of the firefighters, it is not the case. As is the case in the Colorado Springs fire earlier this summer, these were lands where humans had made homes in areas that traditionally burned from natural causes. Though environmental policies are to blame for many forest conflagrations, the main villains here are likely to be poor decision making by the firefighters exacerbated by prolonged drought and extreme heat
Makes sense. Roll out the government employees to save my home sort of thing. Stossell last night was interviewing a private fire fighting guy who says that his organization is paid up front and that the insurance costs then go down which pretty much pays for the rescue.
When the trees are damaged by the Bark Beetle, or by prior fires, the enviros still sue to prevent any harvesting of the remaining wood. A large fire along I-80 near the Calif/Nevada border had a 5 year lawsuit over the harvesting of fire damaged wood. There was a window of time in which the loggers could salvage some of the wood, and the enviros sued to prevent such actions. Now, all of that downed wood is fuel for more fires. Bark Beetle infestations are causing millions of board feet of lumber to be destroyed in N Calif & Oregon & Nevada.
They also have prevented many thousands of acres of grazing permits by ranchers to be utilized.
This creates a buildup of ‘ladder fuels’ which then get a head start & feed into the larger trees. Lightning cannot be controlled, but the correct salvage operations can be controlled.
Add to that the severe cutbacks by forest department workers and the grounding of planes which drop fire retardant slurry, and you have further disasters.
On top of that, the entire departments which are charged with stewardship of the nation’s forest and permeated with the greenies, who are misguided with ideas that are not true.
Simply because they are SOOOOOOOO much smarter than our dumb butts apparently. As long as no one is allowed to kill and clear the dead trees (yup, dead trees are already dead) and clear the fuel load, these clowns are fine with it. If it costs a few firefighters their lives, to them, it was worth it. Yeah, I know. It’s not really THE answer. But close.
With logging comes access and the ability to get to a fire.”””
Under Clinton, Bruce Babbitt started & implemented the “Roadless” policy in our national lands.
They deliberately put up hundreds of heavy gates —( I worked for a welder who made plenty of them)—and they dug deep holes in the existing roads that could swallow a fie truck.
They won’t let fire fighting equipment inside those areas or salvage logging.
If you can get a permit to salvage log, you must do it with horses.
The Roadless policies of Clinton & Babbitt have added greatly to the cost of fires in the USA.
I don't think the author is claiming that. I interpret the article as saying that the forest fires of 100 years ago were smaller, but so much more numerous that it would be too dangerous to build in the forest. Besides, there was no fire-fighting team to help you when one occurred.
That is a fascinating point.
I heard there’s also an issue with areas cleared by the construction work. The first thing that grows back are fast-burning grasses rather than typical chaparral flora. Don’t know how important that is.
This about “Crowning”.
The movement of fire through the crowns of trees or shrubs more or less independently of the surface fire.
Once a forest fire has “Crowned” Gone into the tops of old trees it creates it’s own wind and travels at speed.
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