California's forest management is not the problem


While catastrophic fires were raging in California, President Trump was looking for someone to blame. In a series of tweets published Saturday and Sunday, Trump blamed "blatant forest mismanagement" for the forest fires, which killed at least 31 people. The president also threatened to cut federal funding for firefighting efforts.

Firefighters immediately reported errors in Trump's claims. The Woolsey fire began not in a forest, but on a hill near Simi Valley before spreading to suburban communities, as the campfire burns in a fire-lit area 10 years ago. Forest management has not caused these flames and California is considered a leader in forest management on private land.

"His comments are irresponsible and insulting to firefighters and those affected," said Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, in a statement responding to Trump's latest tweets.

In the first half of the twentieth century, forest fire policy followed a very simple logic: all wildfires are bad and must be extinguished as soon as possible. This mentality stems from the destructive fires of 1910, known as the Big Burn, which killed 86 people and ignited 2.5 million acres in northern Idaho and the west. Montana, turning "millions of trees" into "spark plugs". Firefighting activities after the Great Fire were so aggressive that the Forest Service adopted a policy requiring that all reported fires be extinguished the following day at 10:00 am.

By the mid-20th century, however, more and more researchers had begun to understand what Native Americans had always known: controlled fires were naturally part of the ecosystem. The mindset of "suppressing at all costs" was eventually replaced by directed or prescribed burns designed to prevent uncontrollable fires and on a larger scale instead of fighting them once they had already started.

And although the legacy of the old fire suppression strategy in America has resulted in the excessive accumulation of flammable brushes, there are two other main reasons why California is the perfect compact. The first is that the state has a growing number of people living in or near fire-prone areas.

The second is that California has a naturally dry climate, aggravated by climate change and Trump's disregard for climate policies.

Already, Trump has dismantled several key environmental protections that limit greenhouse gases from oil and gas operations, power plants and cars. The Trump Environmental Protection Agency also proposed to remove California's right to regulate carbon emission standards for car exhaust pipes that are more protective than federal standards. These measures would exacerbate climate change and contribute to the state's propensity to ignite.

A long-term trend of hot summers and drier falls has allowed California vegetation to dry out in a perfect ignition, said Daniel Swain, Assistant Researcher at the Institute for Environment and Sustainability. from the University of California at Los Angeles, in a replica of the Twitter feed.

The US Forest Service estimated in 2015 that climate change has resulted in an average 78-day fire season compared to almost 40 years ago.

Meanwhile, the threat of suspension of Trump funding would paralyze firefighting efforts when they need them the most. The US Forest Service spent more than $ 2 billion last year on extinguishing fires, a large increase that "means we must continue to borrow from forest management funds," said Sonny Perdue, US Secretary to Agriculture. "We have great people at the Forest Service and the procedures and procedures in place … but if we do not have a reliable source of funding in place, we will never be able to catch up on firefighting."