No Atheists in Foxholes, no Climate Change Deniers at front Lines of Wildfires

The western US is facing the prospect of worse and worse severe wildfires over the next century, according to a study summarized by The Scientific American:

” Their findings suggest that, in the decades to come, fire prevalence will decrease in tropical regions — but will increase, possibly severely, at more northerly latitudes, and particularly in the western United States.

“In next 30 years, we’re looking at pretty consistent disruption of current fire patterns for over half the planet — most of which involve increases” in severity, said lead author Max Moritz, a fire specialist based at UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources.”

CBS interviews a professional firefighter in the southwest, who knows all about climate change from personal experience.

Posted in Environment | 14 Responses | Print |

14 Responses

  1. Republican hopes that they can run against the new Obama climate change rules might be sustained in West Virginia or Pennsylvania, but I doubt will be well received in burned over places like N. Arizona.

  2. I wonder if trying to fight fires of this size isn’t just a waste of time and resources. Better to evacuate the area and focus on prevention, or on controlled burns to prevent accumulation of underbrush.

  3. It doesn’t matter how much proof there is on the ground. The American cult of private property requires the supporting myth that individual greed can NEVER cause (undeserved) harm to others. So the harder these ranchers and used car salesmen and other pimps of material excess out West are pressed by fires and water shortages, the harder they will cling to magical thinking. If the weather is changing, it’s not man-made (unless it’s a punishment from Jehovah for toleratings gays and Moslems). They will die lashed to this mast, and suck us all down with them.

  4. Concerning whether or not to fight these wildfires, it depends. I live in the Northern New Mexico mountains. I’ve been watching the Jaroso wildfire burn since lightning struck in the Pecos Wilderness on June 6th. The fire is 20 miles away and the plume is easy to see from my front yard as it arcs over 13,000’ Truchas Peak. Wilderness fires here are left to burn, with fuel removed and containment lines built to protect populated areas. There hasn’t been a fire in this part of the forest for more than a century, so Jaroso has fed on large blowdowns and 5′ deep debris on the forest floor. The fire is 0% contained. Even if it weren’t wilderness, a ground crew couldn’t get in there because the terrain is so rugged there’s no safe way out if the fire began to run.

    This fire, fortunately, has not behaved the same way as the Las Conchas wildfire in 2011 that burned 150,000 acres. This included people’s homes, 45% of Santa Clara Pueblo watershed plus much of their sacred lands (another danger, as monsoon downpours later set off destructive flash floods and mudslides in the burned areas). It threatened Los Alamos National Laboratory and towns with a combined population of nearly 15,000 people. A fire like that couldn’t be left to burn. Even with hundreds of firefighters on the ground (literally, some refused to leave the site and slept in full gear on closed highways) and water dropped from planes, it took five weeks to contain Las Conchas.

    Besides location, the difference between these two fires is how they spread. Both formed towering pyrocumulus thunderheads the first day. Jaroso’s grew to 20,000′ and flames were seen 300′ over the tops of the trees, but the cloud slowly dissipated, light rains fell and the fire hasn’t spread beyond about 10,000 acres. In contrast, the pressure in the Los Conchas thunderhead became unsustainable and it collapsed, driving flames out in all directions in a time with no rain, unpredictable high winds and low humidity. In 48 hours, it ballooned from 0 to 61,000 acres. A fire like that doesn’t just burn itself out.

    Regarding thinning out the fuel, New Mexico is the 5th largest State in land area, but the population is the same as greater Portland, Oregon, with 1/4 of them living in Albuquerque. It’s a wide open place. There’s no way, even without the drastic cut to firefighting funds because of sequestration, to amass the resources needed to remove vast amounts of fuel in a State when dry lightning can strike anywhere or power lines in remote areas can fall and set off a spark in tinder dry conditions.

    My house backs up to 400,000 acres of Picuris Pueblo and BLM lands. Much of that land has been untouched for centuries. On their periphery is 2200 square miles of Carson National Forest. Efforts are always underway to remove as much debris as possible in the CNF adjacent to towns and roads. Ditto controlled burns. Fortunately, most of us heat with wood here which means the clearing effort is aided by people who obtain permits to cart out and sell downed wood and standing deadwood, or to thin live trees in overgrown areas. The irony is that the rain and snow we all pray for just adds more growth and, with it, more fuel to burn in dry times.

    Concerning “private property”, there are no water rights attached to property in this town. We each drink from our own well but we irrigate pastures for our livestock and gardens for our food via acequias, gated ditches dug by hand four centuries ago and cleared of debris by hand every spring. The water comes from snow run-off and springs. Each property owner pays for what s/he uses. The water rights are held by the community at large. “Greedy ranchers” does not apply here. Most of us are just trying to get along. fwiw, this part of New Mexico went more than 70% Democratic in the 2012 election.

    It’s all a balancing act. We do our best to work with Nature. This is a bedrock part of the culture in these mountains among Native people and a mostly Hispanic population that has been here for 400 years. We know that only by living in harmony with Nature and by respecting Her will we survive.

  5. As an atheist veteran who’s seen combat, f**k the title you chose for this article.

    • You chose to call yourself Nightfister. You don’t get to pass judgement on what anyone else calls anything. But thanks for your service and I’m glad you made it back.

  6. Agree, Professor Cole. People who don’t live here and, consequently, have no gut sense of the everyday situation here do not seem to care past their own narrow prejudices. Arguing with your title? This person has got to be kidding.

    See comment above about what it’s like to live here. I love this country and THIS IS MY HOME ALREADY but I also accept its dangers. F*ck the languaging.

    There’s light drizzle in this valley right now and I am grateful. We get half of our 14″ annual rainfall here when the monsoon rains begin, as they seem to be setting up to do now, but I see dry lightning over in the next valley and I’m saying prayers that it won’t ignite a fire. Call the title of this article what you may, but please get a life people. Please wish us all well and use your heart when you comment here instead of only the all-too-often-programmed limited brain. Thanks.

  7. How many of you know the size of a 200,000 acre fire?
    Probably 1 in a 10,000 or 0.01%.
    How many of you hear, really hear the news?

    News Reporters: Please report fire size in mile lengths.

    200,000 acre fires = area of 31 miles long, 10 miles wide.
    200,000/640 = 312.5 square miles. DON’T REPORT SQUARE MILES.
    31.25 miles long by 10 miles wide
    15.63 ” 20 ”
    Calculator: sq.rt. 312.5 = 17.68 mi X 17.68 mi = 17.68
    Or relate to a city, in this case New York City and:
    Augusta 302.5 sq mi of land
    New York City 302.6
    Kansas City 313.5
    Memphis 315.1
    San Francisco 46.9 x 6.7

    I’ve emails this info to many TV and radio news shows telling them to report fire size in terms of miles in length and width. But the lazy ignorant people don’t understand and don’t give a damn about reporting the actual understandable news and/or understanding the news they report.

    For about two weeks, one station reported fire size in miles and then it went back to reporting acres. No one took the time to make a chart or give the simple math.

    I have no idea how big 200,000 acres is unless I divide by 640, the number of acres per square mile which I forget, and then take the square root of that number. Forgot that a 10,000 acre fire is 15.625 sq miles or about 4 miles by 4 miles which I’ll forget in a week most likely.

    Remember: 10,000 acres, 16 sq miles, 4 miles by 4 miles.

    • that’s the land-mass of NYC; 468 sq mi when including the water, which I guess most people would do.

      • And that’s a small fire here. The largest in NM history, the Whitewater-Baldy Complex wildfire in 2012, began with two lightning strikes and the two fires merged in the Gila National Forest. Nearly 300,000 acres burned. 469 square miles. That’s an area into which almost 7 Districts of Columbia would fit. Amazingly, only about a dozen homes were lost. The strikes took place on May 9th and 16th, and it wasn’t until the end of July that the fire was contained. That finally got Governor Martinez’s attention (please don’t get me started on her) to declare that New Mexico was officially in a drought.

        The smoke blanketed Albuquerque 250 miles away. Even healthy people stayed indoors. I’m NE of Santa Fe and we could smell it here, another 125 miles up the road. The sky was yellowish brown when it was at its worst.

        Here’s a link to the burn map in googlemaps. Whitewater-Baldy is the one at the bottom of the page. If you zoom out you’ll get an idea of just how vast and empty New Mexico is. link to
        The people who fight there fires are heroes, pure and simple.

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