President Trump is wrong about wildfire prevention

With the shocking loss of thousands of homes and dozens of lives in the Camp and Woolsey fires in Northern a...

Posted: Nov 18, 2018 3:48 PM
Updated: Nov 18, 2018 3:48 PM

With the shocking loss of thousands of homes and dozens of lives in the Camp and Woolsey fires in Northern and Southern California, people are looking for answers as they try to understand how a tragedy such as this can be prevented in the future.

As people struggled to evacuate, President Donald Trump in a tweet blamed the fires on poor forest management and repeated the claims before his visit to California. While Trump did not explicitly call for an expansion of logging in his latest response, he has previously touted this strategy as a way to curb fires. Meanwhile, the federal government is moving to allow commercial logging in areas such as the Los Padres National Forest outside Santa Barbara, claiming it will prevent fires. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has also blamed "environmental terrorist groups" for preventing the government from properly managing forests.

Accidents, disasters and safety

California

California wildfires

Continents and regions

Donald Trump

Environment and natural resources

Fire prevention and safety

Fires

Forests and woodlands

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Landforms and ecosystems

Natural disasters

North America

Political Figures - US

Politics

Safety issues and practices

Southwestern United States

The Americas

United States

US federal government

White House

Wildfires

It is deeply troubling that Trump and his administration would support logging as a way to curb fires when studies have shown it's ineffective. In the most comprehensive scientific analysis conducted on the issue of forest management and fire intensity -- which looked at more than 1,500 fires on tens of millions of acres across the Western United States over three decades -- we found that forests with the fewest environmental protections and the most logging actually tend to burn much more intensely, not less.

This may seem counterintuitive, but logging leaves behind combustible twigs and branches on the forest floor, which can make fires spread faster. It also reduces the cooling shade of the forest canopy, which creates hotter and drier conditions, and the invasive weeds that take over readily burn. Denser forests buffer and reduce the winds that drive wildland fires, but this effect is largely eliminated by logging.

The fact is that Northern California's Butte County, which has been ravaged by the Camp Fire, had been heavily logged in previous years. In the area immediately to the east of Paradise, dead trees had been extensively logged and removed on both private and public lands, and commercial "thinning" operations had been conducted across large expanses of the nearby Plumas National Forest, supposedly to protect nearby towns from wildland fire.

But the Camp Fire burned through these heavily logged areas rapidly, leaving residents of Paradise and the surrounding towns with far too little time to evacuate.

Trump's call for increased logging also creates a dangerous and false sense of security. When politicians and federal land managers claim the latest commercial logging project will protect residential areas from encroaching wildland fires, people may not see the need to fireproof their homes.

The way forward to protect communities from wildland fire is not through the stump fields that Trump would like to create on our national forests and other forestland. It is through a purposeful and concerted focus on the communities themselves. We must help the residents living near wildlands make their homes fire-safe.

This involves basic precautions such as fire-resistant roofing, ember-proof exterior vents to prevent the wind from blowing firebrands into attic spaces, and rain gutter guards to keep dry leaves and needles from accumulating. Residents should also maintain their "defensible space," or areas within 100 feet of their homes, by pruning branches, small trees, shrubs and grasses at least once every year. This is the only type of "thinning" that will effectively protect homes.

In fact, when these steps are taken, and when homeowners are given the information and assistance they need, the great majority of homes survive even large wildland fires.

There is more that can be done, too. We must create and fund programs to ensure rapid and reliable warning as well as evacuation assistance for people and animals in particularly vulnerable areas. More should also be done to prevent unplanned human ignitions during extreme fire weather, with more rangers and law enforcement officers to stop illegal fireworks and campfires. Some power lines should be moved underground, while others should be shut down during extreme fire weather.

But none of this is possible if we continue operating with outdated and misinformed fire management policies focused on suppressing backcountry fires and increasing logging. We need a 21st-century approach that simultaneously protects residents while preserving these rich ecosystems.

As a society we have a choice to make here. We can listen to voices promoting the politics of fear and opportunism, or we can pay attention to the science and prioritize community safety. Lives and homes hang in the balance of that decision.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604184

Reported Deaths: 7620
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1248631774
Ramsey52480895
Dakota46804470
Anoka42746458
Washington27416291
Stearns22552224
St. Louis18137312
Scott17548135
Wright16370149
Olmsted13391102
Sherburne1201295
Carver1066448
Clay825892
Rice8196110
Blue Earth762543
Crow Wing681594
Kandiyohi667885
Chisago619752
Otter Tail585884
Benton582998
Goodhue483874
Douglas475381
Mower470733
Winona461251
Itasca459263
Isanti439964
McLeod430361
Morrison424662
Nobles407950
Beltrami407561
Steele397616
Polk389072
Becker386655
Lyon363853
Carlton352756
Freeborn346932
Pine335023
Nicollet331045
Mille Lacs311654
Brown307840
Le Sueur297226
Cass286032
Todd285632
Meeker263142
Waseca238023
Martin235332
Roseau211021
Wabasha20783
Hubbard196441
Dodge18783
Renville182446
Redwood176338
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena162823
Fillmore157410
Faribault154419
Chippewa153938
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138837
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122612
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine114920
Pope11296
Murray107010
Swift106918
Koochiching95217
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Wilkin83213
Lake83120
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5938
Lincoln5843
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48293
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 370914

Reported Deaths: 6048
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58232640
Linn21204339
Scott20306247
Black Hawk16119312
Woodbury15238230
Johnson1461585
Dubuque13506211
Dallas1128999
Pottawattamie11223174
Story1071448
Warren583991
Clinton561493
Cerro Gordo553593
Sioux517074
Webster515494
Muscatine4880106
Marshall486676
Des Moines467271
Wapello4337122
Buena Vista426940
Jasper421172
Plymouth402981
Lee382356
Marion366076
Jones300957
Henry294637
Bremer288261
Carroll286852
Crawford268540
Boone268434
Benton259655
Washington256751
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232351
Jackson225242
Clay216627
Kossuth216166
Tama211871
Delaware210943
Winneshiek198535
Page194522
Buchanan193733
Cedar192223
Hardin187444
Fayette186543
Wright185940
Hamilton181851
Harrison179973
Clayton171057
Butler166235
Madison164619
Mills163724
Floyd163342
Cherokee159338
Lyon158841
Poweshiek157036
Allamakee152652
Hancock150234
Iowa149824
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138913
Grundy137333
Emmet135841
Jefferson133435
Shelby131537
Sac130920
Union129935
Louisa129749
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126643
Chickasaw124717
Franklin123323
Guthrie123232
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113523
Howard104922
Montgomery103638
Clarke100924
Keokuk96532
Monroe96330
Unassigned9560
Ida91535
Adair87332
Pocahontas85822
Davis85225
Monona82931
Osceola78916
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7598
Taylor66812
Fremont6269
Decatur6169
Van Buren56418
Ringgold56324
Wayne54423
Audubon53411
Adams3444
Rochester
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 82°
Mason City
Clear
83° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 82°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
82° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 82°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
82° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 81°
Charles City
Cloudy
81° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Father's Day is looking rather stormy
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Aaron's Friday Night Forecast (6/18/21)

Image

Family Service Rochester looking for volunteers

Image

Rochester Preps

Image

Hole In One

Image

Vaccine rate slowing in MN

Image

Minnesota DNR says we can all double-down on water safety this year

Image

There's a nationwide blood shortage

Image

Juneteenth is now a federal holiday

Image

Aaron's Friday Forecast (6/18/21)

Image

Runner attacked by deer on Austin trail

Community Events