Robert Ingram: Gov. Brown should take scientific approach to wildfire danger
Gov. Brown’s latest assertion, that global warming caused fires are the new normal, only partially passes the smell test.
Most politicians don’t out and out lie, they instead, artfully include bits of truth to their mantra to support a specific agenda. That rotten fish aroma emitting from our “Dear Leader’s” vocal chords ignores known science, specifically plant physiology, fire physics and fire weather.
He vilifies global-warming skeptics for ignoring science. Apparently science remains a political tool to be used or ignored as the governor wishes.
Chaparral brush covers vast areas in Southern California. All chaparral species evolved to grow densely packed on very dry, poor soil sites. The most common chaparral specie, Chamise, Adenostomata fasciculatum, is a member of the rose family. Chamise earned the common name, Greasewood, for its ability to create extreme heat under billowing clouds of black smoke. Chamise does not shed its dead limbs and twigs. Instead it evolved to retain them suspended. After a fire burns Chamise down to mere nubs above the ground, Chamise spouts and grew enough decadency to burn again within 20 years. By 40 years they become dangerously explosive, by 60 years, they become standing walls of decadent, suspended, volatile fine fuels waiting for fire to restart the cycle again.
Not global warming, simple plant physiology of chaparral species evolved within a fire regime.
The longer man excludes fire from a fire evolved ecosystem, the greater the fuel build up and the hotter the fire, when fire returns (And fire will always return). A Mediterranean climate, like California’s, creates periods of hot and dry or periods of cold and wet. Neither condition provides the type of habitat necessary for rapid fungal decay. In other words dead vegetation builds faster than it rots (If the fuel decayed quicker than it accumulated, California wouldn’t burn, not the case). We’ve denied this reality for over 100 years and by our own hand crafted this horrific fuel imbalance. Every year, decade after decade, burnable material grows on every untreated acre making fires hotter and harder to stop.
Not global warming, basic fire physics.
The high velocity east winds occurring in the late fall and winter in Southern California are known as Santa Anas. Created by cool, dry, high pressure masses east of California, they drive downhill toward the Pacific Ocean. The air mass compresses, the wind velocity increases while dropping the relative humidity to absolute minimums. Until the high pressure moves, the condition remains.
Not global warming, classic, historic, Southern California fire weather.
With millions of people and thousands of homes in the wildland/urban interface or cities in the path of wind driven fire events, fighting the fire becomes secondary. Now fire crews and first responder resources must be dedicated to evacuating residents and attempting to save structures. Little manpower or effort remains available to actually flank the fire or fight it directly until the threat to residence and their property abates.
Not global warming, the reality of firefighting among 35 million Californians.
The Earth’s recent warming contributes to the length of the fire season, a factor. But “the factor” as our cherry-picking scientific Governor professes? No.
Virtually every acre in California burned periodically 200 years ago, 2,000 years ago, even 200,000 years ago. All of the physical factors creating and demanding a fire evolved ecosystem remain. Nature continues to double down forcing its return. We screwed it up and every year it gets worse and more volatile. If ol’ Governor Moonbeam really desired to help the people of California, scientifically, he’d kill the bullet train to nowhere. (Who the hell wants to haul ass from Modesto to Bakersfield only to be stuck there without a car to get the hell out?) Stop ignoring the science and direct the bullet train’s $100 billion to fuel management and returning California to some semblance of a fire regime.
He won’t, but at the very least, he could address the wildfire issue … scientifically.
Robert G. Ingram lives in Grass Valley.
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