Monday, September 02, 2013

Frustrated By The Wildfires

By Norris McDonald

I am very frustrated by the wildfires that have abeen and are raging out of control this year.  Year after year after year, it is the same story: hundreds of thousands of acres of forests burned up, hundreds of homes destroyed and numerous lives taken.  It almost appears that America does not want to solve this problem.  Is there a motive to avoid preventing wildfires?  There are huge federal and state budgets for fighting wildfires.  Helicopters, airplanes, firetrucks, equipment and thousands of firefighters are on call to fight these fires each year.  Is this the tail wagging the dog?

Right now The Rim fire is burning out of control in northern California.  It is threatening the Hetch Hetchy reservoir that provides 85% of the drinking water for San Francisco.  It is also threatening electricity for the city because grid lines are being burned up.  The Rim fire is being describes as the size of Dallas, Texas.  Imagine the amount of carbon dioxide and other emissions being put into the atmosphere by this mega fire.  Global warming is only going to exacerbate wildfire seasons.  The Angeles wildfire earlier this summer was also devastating.

We are promoting a Wildfire Mitigation Program that includes employment (firebreak construction) for young people and fuel for wood-chip-to-electricity power plants.  Essentially, youth would cut firebreaks and the wood would serve as fuel for strategically located power plants.  Sounds simple enough doesn't it? Prevent wildfires, create employment and provide fuel for electricity.  Of course, some environmentalists oppose any such wood removal from our national forests out of fear that it will open the door for clear cutting.  We believe their concerns are unwarranted in the face of such massive destruction.  The Rim wildfire is simply not a normal wildfire that sometimes service to revitalize a forested area.

The bottom line is that we need to cut firebreaks in specific regions, particularly for communities, infrastructure and threatened wildlife areas.  The various federal and state agencies need to coordinate such an effort in cooperation with private and public utilities.  Merchant generators should also be allowed to construct and operate the wood-chip-to-electricity plants.  Imagine a year without any out of control wildfires and electricity being produced from wood that would ordinarily be burned for nothing.  We want to help this scenario to become a reality.  Oh.  And you will still need the wildland firefighters because their will be wildfires.  But we can prevent the massive out of control wildfires such as is raging in California right now.

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