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Twisties

They are having a profound impact on life in the Western US and Canada. Profound. Rapidly increasing severity and frequency, rapidly increasing acreage, and longer fire seasons are leading to greater impacts from smoke, both locally, and often hundreds of miles away. The losses of businesses and homes, disruption of life and economies, impact to travel plans, the overall stress are taking their toll.

 

Communities come together in the most amazing ways. Livestock are evacuated, shelters pop up.... in our case last year people went to a campground the Tolowa Di Nee Nation opened instead of the Red Cross. It was more permissive about pets, families stayed together, and they had better services. Facebook is increasingly the way people communicate and coordinate in these situations. Satellite mapping, Official information sources, smoke monitoring, weather.... terms like humidity recovery seep into your vocabulary. You learn about dealing with fire traffic and camps, displaced wildlife, and evacuating on a moments notice.

 

 

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Twisties

The WUI. That's another of the many terms we've begun to grapple with. It means the wildland urban interface, and it has expanded dramatically in recent years.

 

"Our recent study found that WUI grew rapidly from 1990 to 2010 in the U.S., expanding from 30.8 to 43.4 million homes (a 41% increase), covering from 581,000 to 770,000 km2 (33% growth), making it the fastest growing land use type in the conterminous U.S. New WUI area totaled 189,000 km2, an area that is larger than Washington State. This expansion of the WUI poses particular challenges for wildfire management, creating more buildings at risk to wildfire in environments where firefighting is often difficult."

 

Reference

 

Another concept is that of "Fire Adaption." The set of ideas about learning to live with wildfire: Building codes, Defensible Space, Zoning, Education and property maintenance.

 

 

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Well, if those silly firefighters would get their act together, maybe these conflagrations wouldn't get so out of control! :grin:

 

Kidding aside, it's crazy what those guys go through - and that they can succeed at all against such a massive force of nature. It helps to have

but even with technology like that backing them up, the work they do on the ground is still backbreaking and exhausting, not to mention dangerous.

 

Re: fire adaption, maybe education ought to be at the top of the list. Many years ago at one of our UnRallies I was chatting with Jamie Edmonds at a time when massive wildfires had just incinerated numerous neighborhoods on the outskirts of San Diego. He said that in the aftermath of those fires, the building codes had been modified to require that new homes be built with better fire resistance. But they implemented the new codes with a long delay - maybe 6-12 months - and that intervening period, there was a massive rush of applications for new building permits submitted by people whose homes had just burned to the ground; they were hurrying to beat the deadline so that they could rebuild their homes in compliance with the old, lax fire safety requirements instead of the newer, more strict ones.

 

something...something...HISTORY...something...DOOMED TO REPEAT IT. :dopeslap:

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Twisties

That's another thing we've learned... Aerial support is in question. It may just be there because of misguided politics, media hype, and misguided public perceptions, or it may have some limited valid use... primarily to provide a degree of control on new fire starts until a ground team can get on scene... depending on terrain, weather, etc. But most use appears to be driven by a need to APPEAR to be doing everything, and small craft that can get in close are typically more effective than supertankers.

 

Aerial drops of water and retardant are in question because they are expensive, of questionable efficacy, potentially toxic, and very risky to personnel. These operations account for something like a third of all firefighter deaths, but only about a percent of firefighters.

 

In the case of "our" Chetco Bar Fire last year, the pol's were screaming because the Global Supertanker had not been certified. The USFS was saying they couldn't use it anyway in our steep and rugged terrain. We had helos and small planes and they often couldn't fly due to weather and smoke, but when they flew, they could discharge many smaller loads directly on target. These drops can, in theory, slow an advancing flame front and allow firefighters a chance to get in. In practice, in steep terrain they can actually spread a fire, as they did with the Chetco Bar Fire in it's early days.

 

The current technical recommendations are at odds with actual practice. The tech people want small direct scoop water carrying craft on initial fire breakouts in relatively flat terrain. Actual practice is much broader, and it is estimated that about 50% of their use is wasted/misdirected resource.

 

That said, another form of aerial support, night time infrared flyover mapping, is invaluable for showing actual heat with high resolution.

Edited by Twisties

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Twisties

There is huge resistance in the Libertarian rural west to any building codes or enforcement, Mitch. Education and voluntary measures are key. Community involvement is probably the most effective approach.

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Marty Hill

Jan, I'm keeping a close watch on the area since my son is only about 50 miles from you. Had dinner in your town a few weeks ago but assume you guys were at the UN that weekend.

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Twisties

Yeah, we were at the UN. Next time, my friend.

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Bill_Walker
The USFS was saying they couldn't use it anyway in our steep and rugged terrain. We had helos and small planes and they often couldn't fly due to weather and smoke, but when they flew, they could discharge many smaller loads directly on target. These drops can, in theory, slow an advancing flame front and allow firefighters a chance to get in. In practice, in steep terrain they can actually spread a fire, as they did with the Chetco Bar Fire in it's early days.

 

The current technical recommendations are at odds with actual practice. The tech people want small direct scoop water carrying craft on initial fire breakouts in relatively flat terrain. Actual practice is much broader, and it is estimated that about 50% of their use is wasted/misdirected resource.

 

That surprises me. I was watching live coverage of a fire here today, the Rangeland fire, which was in very steep terrain, and they were saying the aircraft were necessary because the terrain meant ground-based firefighters couldn't access it. The planes were laying blocking lines of retardant along the ridge tops ahead of the flame front, while the helicopters were dropping water on the fire itself. It all seemed pretty effective. They kept it down to 250 acres, currently 60% contained. It probably helped that it was only 3.5 miles as the plane flies from the CalFire base at Ramona Airport, so the planes could refill with retardant and come back quickly. But it's true they didn't use any supertankers. There were CalFire S2s, which are pretty small, and one Erickson MD87, which is certainly getting up there in size, since it's a converted small airliner.

 

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Twisties

Bill, that sounds like a small fire and initial attack, which is the appropriate use. They can not put out a fire with air attack. They have to get ground crews in eventually, or build an indirect line where they can.

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Twisties
i-SJ69svM-XL.png

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Bill_Walker

It's just a wee bit smoky.

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Danny caddyshack Noonan

I believe that map Jan. Heavily filtered sky giving only four planets barely visible and two stars tonight.

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Twisties

So, I was saying.... Wildfire is having a profound impact on the west... As a friend put it yesterday,

 

Towns on fire seem to be the new normal...

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Bud
There is huge resistance in the Libertarian rural west to any building codes or enforcement, Mitch. Education and voluntary measures are key. Community involvement is probably the most effective approach.

 

That's a problem when citizens don't want government involvement in building codes or enforcement but want the government to spend money to save their houses by fighting fires.

 

 

 

Here is an interesting article

 

"That's something already happening in some places. In Colorado, for example, a number of insurers require some fire mitigation for homeowners to get a policy."

Edited by Bud

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Twisties
There is huge resistance in the Libertarian rural west to any building codes or enforcement, Mitch. Education and voluntary measures are key. Community involvement is probably the most effective approach.

 

That's a problem when citizens don't want government involvement in building codes or enforcement but want the government to spend money to save their houses by fighting fires.

 

 

 

Here is an interesting article

 

"That's something already happening in some places. In Colorado, for example, a number of insurers require some fire mitigation for homeowners to get a policy."

 

We are already hearing of insurers requiring "defensible space." What is shocking in the current instances, particularly the Camp Fire outside of Chico, CA, is that it roared through an urban area. You see buildings destroyed that are surrounded by asphalt parking lots and wet green lawns. I'm speaking of supermarkets and medical complexes. The take home message is that nothing will stop a fire when it's hot, dry and windy.

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Marty Hill

Jan, I hope the fires stay away from you and my son.

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John Ranalletta

Juan Brown's overview. Juan did the Oroville Dam series.

 

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Danny caddyshack Noonan
Juan Brown's overview. Juan did the Oroville Dam series.

 

 

Good reference point now for me for the point of origin. Ridden that a couple times in the fall. When the reverse winds blow, they sometimes channel a lot of air in the canyons. Lot of handlebar input on one ride with the wind. That area gets very hot when it is just regular hot. Rhetorical question: As a former check writer to them, I'm curious if anyone has ever tallied the losses in life and property due to PG&E infrastructure caused disasters. Based upon the fees compared to some other locally owned utilities, I always thought I was getting ripped off.

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Twisties

Thanks John. The money is certainly on PG&E for the spark, and I think the questions he asks in the last 30 seconds are of utmost importance.

 

Wildfires start. About 80% or so are human caused. 98% are extinguished without issue in initial attack. Of the rest, the majority burn themselves out without undue drama or damage. The question is about the less than 1% that become problematic, or in the case of the Camp Fire, out and out disasters. Why do these fires take off and why do they cause so much damage?

 

This guy seems to have done some homework on the Camp Fire:

 

Zeke Lunder Camp Fire Analysis

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Twisties
Jan, I hope the fires stay away from you and my son.

 

Marty, there have been a series of arsons in your son's area. A couple of nights ago 4-5 small wildfire starts, and at least one tree brought down to impede access, a flare incident the same night, and last night ten small starts. Gasquet Fire Dept is overwhelmed. Meanwhile, we had a slash burn (the waste from commercial logging operations is called slash) that reignited as winds picked up and conditions grew dryer. It happened yesterday morning and is within a mile of our place. They got it knocked back down, but it was a fairly major response.

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Marty Hill

Thanks Jan. Son is visiting his mom in florida so I couldn't ask him.

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KTM Doug

Where I live in the Bay Area, it smells like all my neighbors are burning their fireplaces. :( Lot's of smoke here also.

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Skywagon

you have all those windmills on 580...just turn them on hi and blow it back.

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Red

Many people who buy/own homes in the west have no idea what sort of fire regime they are living in. California chaparral fire return interval is 30 to 50 years. The ponderosa pine forests of N Cal and E OR are about 10 to 15 years. This intervals are pre settlement time frames. Enter humans and fire suppression. Smokey bear keeps fire size at very low sizes and intervals for 70 years. The forest/shrubland fuels that would have been 'naturally' burned in a relatively low intensity build and build. Smokey has had a good run. Until recently, he caught and extinguished fires while small at the 97% level. Now, when Smokey loses one, it doesn't act 'naturally'. It has decades of fuel built up that wouldn't have 'naturally' been there. There is no catching these fires. The burn with an intensity and rate of spread that is not 'natural'. That's where we are. Mother is reverting to the mean with a vengence. While all this fire suppression was taking place, we humans forgot the natural fire cycles. We built homes and entire communities where fire was a frequent and 'natural' event. We relied on Smokey to keep things under control. Well, Mother is informing Smokey that you can only fool Mother nature so long, then she reclaims her status as arbiter of natural fire return intervals. People often look to place blame. In this situation I think it's a perfect storm of fire fighting agencies thinking they can control nature and all of us believing that fires in fire adapted plant communities only happen to other people. The fire situation has a lot of similarities to what repeatedly happens in flood plains.

Edited by Red

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Twisties

Regarding the fuel loads. Most of the work on the subject has been done in the Rockies where forests are naturally less dense. Where we are, in the Kalmath/Siskiyou Mountains, and other coastal ranges in NorCal through to Alaska, we are naturally dense and moist (rainforest). Studies in these forests show that severe, stand-replacing fire was normal on a 90-300 year interval. The research from the Rockies is plainly not applicable to the coastal ranges. I have not seen reports in the Sierras and can't speak to that regime, but the research from the Rockies may or may not be applicable. In any event, if you look at the Zeke Lunder link I posted above, you will see that fuel loading was not the issue in the destruction of Paradise. That fire burned through an urban area, it destroyed buildings in the middle of parking lots surrounded by green grass. But even before it reached town, it burned through recently burned and recently logged areas.

 

We are going to need to confront fire adaptation. This means either zoning and building code solutions, or perhaps voluntary educational and marketing-based approaches. Ultimately, where and how we build needs to change.

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Red

I have to disagree that most of the work on fuel loading and fire return intervals has been done in the Rockies. I also never mentioned the coast range forest communities. The California fire that ran all the way to Malibu was never in a costal dense moist community. So referring to those communities in this discussion is a little off topic. There has been extensive and recent research done in the ponderosa pine/bitterbrush, juniper/sagebrush, mixed conifer/mesic pine, and sagebrush/bunchgrass, pinyon/juniper communities east of the cascades. Additionally there has been loads of work on the east side of the sierras in a variety of communities which include ponderosa pine and jeffery pine. Enough work has been done in chaparral over the past few decades to give a good idea of how those plant communities were fire adapted. I'm not familiar with studies in the Rockies. I never commented on the Rockies, however I do know that they've had their own issues with stocking levels, insect and disease mortality related to stocking rates and lack of 'natural' fire return intervals, and big fires similar to situations in the out-west states. Fact is that in hind sight, we have not been managing forest and rangelands to be in equilibrium with natural fire regimes. Now that we are experiencing warmer and drier conditions than historical, we are seeing fires that are truly not natural. Add to that the urban wildland interface situation, it comes as no surprise to observers of fire adapted plant communities and recent home building practices that current conditions are anything but historic and it follows that fire activity, intensity, and magnitude will also be at (above) non historic levels in areas where people did not historically live in large numbers.

It's time to educate home buyers/owners of their surroundings so they can make decisions on the level of risk they want to take. It's time to educate those who live in the west about how 'unnatural' their current situation is concerning fire's roll in their areas. It's time to fund agencies and private land owners to use mechanical fuel treatments and prescribed fire prescriptions to begin turning our current unnatural situation into something that is more ecologically based, fire resistant, and safe. I'm with you on education, building codes, zoning, and market based solutions.

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Red

I have to disagree that most of the work on fuel loading and fire return intervals has been done in the Rockies. I also never mentioned the coast range forest communities. The California fire that ran all the way to Malibu was never in a costal dense moist community. So referring to those communities in this discussion is a little off topic. There has been extensive and recent research done in the ponderosa pine/bitterbrush, juniper/sagebrush, mixed conifer/mesic pine, and sagebrush/bunchgrass, pinyon/juniper communities east of the cascades. Additionally there has been loads of work on the east side of the sierras in a variety of communities which include ponderosa pine and jeffery pine. Enough work has been done in chaparral over the past few decades to give a good idea of how those plant communities were fire adapted. I'm not familiar with studies in the Rockies. I never commented on the Rockies, however I do know that they've had their own issues with stocking levels, insect and disease mortality related to stocking rates and lack of 'natural' fire return intervals, and big fires similar to situations in the out-west states. Fact is that in hind sight, we have not been managing forest and rangelands to be in equilibrium with natural fire regimes. Now that we are experiencing warmer and drier conditions than historical, we are seeing fires that are truly not natural. Add to that the urban wildland interface situation, it comes as no surprise to observers of fire adapted plant communities and recent home building practices that current conditions are anything but historic and it follows that fire activity, intensity, and magnitude will also be at (above) non historic levels in areas where people did not historically live in large numbers.

It's time to educate home buyers/owners of their surroundings so they can make decisions on the level of risk they want to take. It's time to educate those who live in the west about how 'unnatural' their current situation is concerning fire's roll in their areas. It's time to fund agencies and private land owners to use mechanical fuel treatments and prescribed fire prescriptions to begin turning our current unnatural situation into something that is more ecologically based, fire resistant, and safe. I'm with you on education, building codes, zoning, and market based solutions.

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Bill_Walker
It's time to educate home buyers/owners of their surroundings so they can make decisions on the level of risk they want to take.

 

I'd say insurance companies are doing that to some extent. When I bought my current home in San Marcos, CA, in 2008, my agent told me that if I'd bought one street below me, they wouldn't have been able to insure me for fire. Since then, another development has been built below that street, so that may have changed things (although recent fires would seem to indicate that being surrounded by other homes isn't much protection). So far, we've had to evacuate once, in May 2014, but no homes in my neighborhood burned.

 

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Joe Frickin' Friday

All the smoke from those fires has been blowing toward the San Francisco Bay area. Checked in last night with a friend of mine in Livermore, and the air quality index was 272, classified as "very unhealthy." That's a number you usually see associated with cities in China.

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KTM Doug

Yesterday afternoon here in Livermore, I went outside in the afternoon. Looked and smelled like everyone in the neighborhood had their fireplace burning wood. It was quite the eye irritant and breathing walking to the mail box you could really tell the smoke was thick. Worst air quality in the bay area for us. Never seen it like this. I looked out the windows a few times and saw folks walking with masks but none on their pets. Don't know why they think they need a filter and that their pets must have one built in. :(

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Red

 

A little background regarding eastern Origone plant communities. Mostly applies to east side of Cascades and N.Cal east side of Sierras. The concepts apply to all of what fire/forest ecologists call fire adapted plant communities.

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Twisties
I have to disagree that most of the work on fuel loading and fire return intervals has been done in the Rockies. I also never mentioned the coast range forest communities. The California fire that ran all the way to Malibu was never in a costal dense moist community. So referring to those communities in this discussion is a little off topic.

 

The topic is "Wildfires," not the Woolsey fire in particular. I was just adding information about another community to your informative comments, and we have had very severe fire in the coastal forests the last couple of years.

 

 

There has been extensive and recent research done in the ponderosa pine/bitterbrush, juniper/sagebrush, mixed conifer/mesic pine, and sagebrush/bunchgrass, pinyon/juniper communities east of the cascades. Additionally there has been loads of work on the east side of the sierras in a variety of communities which include ponderosa pine and jeffery pine. Enough work has been done in chaparral over the past few decades to give a good idea of how those plant communities were fire adapted.

 

Excellent! Thank you for contributing.

 

 

I'm not familiar with studies in the Rockies. I never commented on the Rockies, however I do know that they've had their own issues with stocking levels, insect and disease mortality related to stocking rates and lack of 'natural' fire return intervals, and big fires similar to situations in the out-west states. Fact is that in hind sight, we have not been managing forest and rangelands to be in equilibrium with natural fire regimes. Now that we are experiencing warmer and drier conditions than historical, we are seeing fires that are truly not natural. Add to that the urban wildland interface situation, it comes as no surprise to observers of fire adapted plant communities and recent home building practices that current conditions are anything but historic and it follows that fire activity, intensity, and magnitude will also be at (above) non historic levels in areas where people did not historically live in large numbers.

It's time to educate home buyers/owners of their surroundings so they can make decisions on the level of risk they want to take. It's time to educate those who live in the west about how 'unnatural' their current situation is concerning fire's roll in their areas. It's time to fund agencies and private land owners to use mechanical fuel treatments and prescribed fire prescriptions to begin turning our current unnatural situation into something that is more ecologically based, fire resistant, and safe. I'm with you on education, building codes, zoning, and market based solutions.

 

Yes, I think we are in agreement for the most part. I appreciate your expertise. Our forest here on the coast is also fire adapted. Thanks for joining in!

 

 

 

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Selden
We are already hearing of insurers requiring "defensible space." What is shocking in the current instances, particularly the Camp Fire outside of Chico, CA, is that it roared through an urban area. You see buildings destroyed that are surrounded by asphalt parking lots and wet green lawns. I'm speaking of supermarkets and medical complexes. The take home message is that nothing will stop a fire when it's hot, dry and windy.

Yesterday afternoon, listening to the radio, I heard a heartbreaking story of a Paradise man whose wife was disabled. He had left the house for work, teaching 4th grade at a school in Chico, and told his wife that if there was the slightest hint of a problem, he would turn around, come back, and pick her up. With little warning, the situation changed, but police wouldn't let him in. I kept hoping for a happy ending. There wasn't one.

 

You do everything you can, and sometimes it isn't enough:

 

As Knaver spent about 45 minutes cleaning the roof and yard of pine needles that had fallen over night, he remembers feeling relieved that he had spent the last seven years fire-proofing his yard as best he could. He had cleared the property of brush; he'd installed sod around the house and spent thousands of dollars trimming the lower limbs off all his pine trees.

We moved from Atlanta to a forested location last year. Fortunately, NE Georgia doesn't get Santa Ana winds, and there is a fire hydrant almost next to our house, but I never forget that there is a potential price to pay for living where I have chosen.

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tallman

Just read about the reemergence of 2 tier fire fighting.

Insurance companies behind private fire fighters in high risk locales (like Malibu), high risk defined a$ $$$$homes.

This is how it used to be.

 

Also, 40% (didn't check) of wildfire suppression is done by private, not public.

This is much like hazard clean up situations where private subcontractors are brought in.

 

So, a good thing?

Should wildfire suppression be a local, regional, state, federal responsibility?

Or, should homeowner/insurance company do this?

If you have one, should the other be an option, or not?

If policy leads to problems, should the policy writer (government) be financially responsible for loss?

Or, should certain locales be uninsurable?

Coastal areas? Wildfire history?

 

 

 

 

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Twisties

In most rural western counties, Tim, the Feds own 60% or so of the land and in many cases it's forested. In Oregon, there are also State forests, but these are not a large percentage overall. Private timber companies own most of the rest. Maybe 30%ish. In our county there are only about 4-6% of lands that are developable between Federal ownership and State land use planning restrictions. The developable portion is above the beach but along the coast, mostly around the cities.

 

Our three cities lie in river valleys, two of which are subject to these kinds of winds, but they are the only places that we can build. Insurers will come out an wrap homes if they think a fire is coming and they have time. So will the local and State fire authorities.

 

Your question is where should responsibility lie. It's a good one. Currently, each land owner is responsible for their own property's maintenance and their own losses. But fire doesn't respect ownership boundaries and fire behavior on adjacent lands can determine the outcome of your property. We pay a hefty tax to live in the forest, but they don't do much prevention or education. The county has requirements, but they are forgotten and so useless.

 

Often, in our area, simply because of majority land ownership, and the lay of the land, fires start on Federal lands and move into private timber, then begin to threaten population centers as they move. It's not uncommon for a fire to simmer for months in Wilderness doing more or less nothing, and then as weather dries, winds pick up, or it enters the highly flammable industrial forest or recent burn scars... it takes off.... that is what happened last year with our Chetco Bar Fire. Who is to blame? Is anyone, or as Selden says, and I agree, we chose to live in a forest and need to accept the risk.

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John Ranalletta

Virtually, every part of the country suffers some specific risk, e.g. fires in the western states, floods & tornadoes in the Midwest, hurricanes on the east and southeast coasts. We cannot and should not "socialize" these risks. It is tantamount to absolving people of the responsibility of their decisions.

Edited by John Ranalletta

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John Ranalletta

Juan Brown update

 

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John Ranalletta

Juan Brown update & flyover

 

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