More rubbish from 60 Minutes tonight. "The Age of Megafires"

Right on cue, CBS news 60 minutes is expected link the recent California fires to “global warming”. Never mind that the fire was caused by arson, or that the area hadn’t burned in 40-60 years, leading up to a collection of dry dead underbrush which is part of the natural fire cycle. Never mind that La Nina made for a dry couple of years exacerbating the problem. Never mind that we get fires in California about this time every year. No, its the “Age of Megafires”:


THE AGE OF MEGAFIRESGlobal warming is increasing the intensity and number of forest fires across the American West. Scott Pelley goes to the fire line to report. David Gelber and Joel Bach are the producers. Watch a preview

UPDATE: WUWT reader Jason writes to tell us that this story is a rerun, and originally aired in 2007. See it here. I’ll bet the intro will mention the California fires though. They may have even “freshened up” the report a bit for the current situation.

I wonder if CBS borrowed the title from the Christian Science Monitor 2007 report?

Here is a top 20 report from CDF, note that they poo-poo 1932. Note also that there were quite a number of 100,00+ acre fires more than 10 years ago, directly contradicting the interview in the CBS trailer.

NYT was saying it is all getting worse back in 1996. Curiously though, you won’t find a single mention of “global warming” or “climate change” in that story. It was all about forest management issues:

But the recent methods used to control the growth of Western forests has also been blamed. In view of this summer’s debacle, debate is intensifying on how to better manage these forests.

Loggers correlate today’s wildfires with a Federally mandated cut in timber harvests from national forests, from a peak of 12 billion board feet a year in the 1980’s to about 4 billion this year.

But after World War II, a Smokey the Bear ethic took hold in the West, and total fire suppression became a national goal. Without regular low-level fires, Western forests grew dense, and massive amounts of fuel built up.

Today, when a Western forest ignites, it often explodes with a force unknown in earlier times. Racing from tree crown to tree crown, fires last longer and travel farther.

Scott Pelley is the same reporter that went to Antarctic in 2007 at the height of  the melt season to tell us that “Antarctica is Melting”. They called that one the “The Age of Warming” Of course Scott never told his viewers that it was the peak melt season or that Antarctic ice is above normal.

And finally, never mind that 100 years ago, we didn’t have CNN or 60 minutes or “Action News” to regularly scare us to death with dramatic visual linkages. Back then, fire were just another part of the natural landscape.

From my perspective , we live in the “Age of MegaFUD

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Jason Bair
September 6, 2009 2:41 pm

ratings. its all for ratings.

September 6, 2009 2:43 pm

What the heck?!?! They ran that same story in 2007!

September 6, 2009 2:47 pm

I predict that there won’t be another “megafire” in that area of California for at least 50 years.

P Walker
September 6, 2009 2:55 pm

Sigh , I wish anyone who think fires in California are a result of global warming would read John McPhee’s The Control of Nature . He discusses the natural volitility of the brush , notably chapparel in SoCal .

September 6, 2009 3:11 pm

60 minutes has absolutely no credibility anyway if your a sentient being and have watched this tripe alarmism in the past. Here is just a brief rundown of “news shows” I recall before completely and forever turning them off.
1. Sudden acceleration of cars. Spawned many lawsuits and cost Audi $10 billion and led to other lawsuits against american car makers. Much later it was concluded that these were driver error, not sudden unbidden acceleration.
2. Exploding gas tanks on chevy trucks. They were rightfully sued for putting igniters in the fuel spouts to insure an explosion for the cameras because the trucks just wouldn’t explode on cue otherwise. CBS lost.
3. Alar on apples. Apple growers were nearly bankrupted in many parts of the country from completely phoney assertions about the imagined diseases from the use of Alar. I suspect CBS ran breathless “news” alarmism stories about DDT in the 60s.
If it’s alarmist and the gullible will watch ,and boost ratings, 60 Minutes will say anything. Global Warming seems made to order for CBS, one of the truest and greediest corporate evil doers I’ve ever come across.
They are shameless.
REPLY: NBC Dateline had the truck gas tank scam story, not CBS
– Anthony

September 6, 2009 3:11 pm

Anyone who pays any attention to 60 Minutes gets exactly what he/she deserves.
I gave up totally after the Illinois Power nuclear “hit job”. It was different from blowing up a pick up truck with explosives, but no more useful.

John F. Hultquist
September 6, 2009 3:13 pm

And right on schedule – that being the one dictated by a cold PDO and a fuzzy El Nino – the state of Washington is cloud covered with severe outbreaks of rain.
Labor Day weekend, County Fair, Ellensburg Rodeo, and all outdoor activities are soggy. Sorry about that; let’s blame global warming, or climate change, or weather, or an act of God. Doesn’t really matter — it is wet!

September 6, 2009 3:28 pm

This is funny.
Riaño, D., J.A. Moreno Ruiz, D. Isidoro, and S.L. Ustin. 2007. Global spatial patterns and temporal trends of burned area between 1981 and 2000 using NOAA-NASA Pathfinder. Global Change Biology, 13, 40–50.
Found increases in burned area increasing in the western United States, southern Europe, and interior Eurasia, but decreasing burned area in Central America and much of Southeast Asia. “There was also no significant upward or downward global trend in the burned area for any individual month.”
Now, this is a short period and I’d bet if we had data back to the beginning of the century there would be no trends anywhere (there’s good reason to believe that the upward trend in the Western US is part of natural cyclic variation) But how can a trend which doesn’t occur globally be attributed to global warming?

Dr A Burns
September 6, 2009 3:29 pm

Perhaps the press would be interested in this new theory as to the cause of climate change:

Just as plausible as man’s CO2.
Hope it gives you a good laugh !

September 6, 2009 3:33 pm

Sorry Anthony about referencing CBS as responsible instead of NBC. After awhile all the trumped up and phoney “news” outlets just seem to blend together.

September 6, 2009 3:45 pm

LloydG (15:33:18) :
Alphabet soup?

Douglas DC
September 6, 2009 3:46 pm

Pasco wa, and Yakima Wa had record rainfall-and may have record cold.Bend Redmond area of Or.-Freeze advisory.Arson isn’t a by-product of Global Warming.
Some of the biggest, deadliest, fire is human caused..
Like the Twin Towers?

John F. Hultquist
September 6, 2009 4:03 pm

timetochooseagain (15:28:28) : changes in burn rates
The western US seems to have a lot of arson. The current California fire is one such, but in the Ellensburg region of central Washington State a few years ago an unhappy fellow set about a dozen fires before he was caught. He worked on road construction projects and on his way home after work he would set a fire. Take out the acres burned from nut-cases such as this man and re-run the numbers.
In equatorial and tropical areas there seems to be socio-economic changes resulting in less burning of forests.
These issues require more than a sound-bite from the MSM so don’t expect the actual reasons to displace global warming on the evening news.

John Silver
September 6, 2009 4:11 pm

Alar on apples was a Fenton Communications project.
Follow the FUD.

James F. Evans
September 6, 2009 4:15 pm

“The age of Megafires”
Sounds like the History Channel.

September 6, 2009 4:19 pm

Just watched.

September 6, 2009 4:21 pm

Lets try again. Boycott: Plavix, Minwax, GM, and Flomax

September 6, 2009 4:21 pm

In Arizona a few years back, we had an out of work “fireman” start what became the largest recorded fire in AZ. He was just looking (making) for work. We had another large fire started by a female who got lost and decided to send a smoke signal by starting a fire.

P Walker
September 6, 2009 4:27 pm

OK , I just watched it . I lived in Ketchum for nearly 25 years and still have a residence there . “60 Minutes”‘s reprort is BS . No time to comment further , will be back .

Bill Illis
September 6, 2009 4:28 pm

Have a look at this google map picture from northern Canada. All the brown-yellow areas are fire burns, some newer, some decades old. Now those would have been mega-fires.,-108.808594&spn=5.232219,14.084473&t=h&z=6

Bill Jamison
September 6, 2009 4:32 pm

San Diego has experienced two “megafires” in the last 6 years. Both were caused by dry windy weather combined with dense brush that hadn’t burned in over 20 years. The massive loss of houses was caused by San Diego’s growth into rural areas, canyons and mesas surrounded by highly flamable brush. The solution is controlled growth and strict guidelines for new communities built in fire prone areas as well as controlled burns.
It may well be the era of “megafires” but of course it has nothing to do with global warming or climate change. It’s similar to the changes in Florida that have resulted in higher monetary damage from hurricanes…more people living in areas that historically are hit by storms.

Ron de Haan
September 6, 2009 4:42 pm

You put it right, “Rubbish”, in this case recycled “Rubbish”.

September 6, 2009 4:48 pm

He is one off the most biased reporters i have ever heard of. If you want to report you should always show to sides of the coin. This guy should be fired and laughed at.

September 6, 2009 4:58 pm

John F. Hultquist (16:03:42) : And we could complicate it more with talking about fire suppression policies and forest (mis)management. The reasons for these things are complex. So yeah, the media doesn’t bother to delve into them.

September 6, 2009 5:10 pm

I have been reading ‘Ubiquity’ by Mark Buchanan. In he mentions the work of Bruce Malamud et al who studied fires in the USA and Australia over the last century. Their work revealed that fire size follows a power law. Further they developed a mathematical game that emulated the power law that the data showed. It also showed that the way to reduce severe fires was with practices such as controlled burns, or as it is sometimes called fuel reduction burns. Fire is an inescapable feature of the landscape in many parts of the world. We need to understand that fire has a place in the landscape and how to best manage it.

September 6, 2009 5:15 pm

Those living on the west coast all understand that Global Warming means wet wet wet (did I say wet?), yeah… very wet weather. Since the planet has been cooling down, the air is not picking as much moisture and it has been dry… bone dry.

September 6, 2009 5:44 pm
Douglas DC
September 6, 2009 5:52 pm

One thing-as a former Aerial Firefighter and I still keep up with the industry,there is now a ‘let burn’ mentality in the USFS and BLM.CDF(Cal Fire) is a somewhat different story,but.As stated above the Forest/Urban interface has _got_ to be delt with sooner of later.One of the biggest problems is the idea of Xeriscaping-the use of native plants to landscape property,low water requirement,high fire danger.Another is,simply,
not enough clear space, use concrete if you want but get rid of the trees and vegitation.-if you are allowed to-which leads to the biggest problem government
stupidity.-in the name of the environment,and planning.I have witnessed ,more than once, a firetruck unable to get to a property-due to too narrow roads,-not good.
Another thing the Big Burns of the 1910-14 period(note at a low end of Solar
Cycle) were far more devastating than anything like it to day the big Burn of 1910
would’ve had been an example of Global Warming.(Along with the open NW passage
in the earlier part of the 20th century a Wiki on the Big Burn of 1910:

Patrick Davis
September 6, 2009 6:21 pm

Looking forward to the fire season here in Australia. I wonder, if like last year, most of the fires will be started by people.

September 6, 2009 7:12 pm

Guess they didn’t learn from the clowns that reprinted the “Wilkins Ice Sheet Collapse” story. The water-toting scoundrels are shameless.

Kevin Kilty
September 6, 2009 7:17 pm

It seems to me that “60 Minutes” has had to pay some huge libel judgements over its life to people like Ariel Sharon, to Audi, etc., etc. There is a reason for this. They are un-careful reporters with axes to grind.

September 6, 2009 7:27 pm

Stephen Pyne has a great book on fires in North America. During the 1870s and 1930s, huge fires raged for months across much of the US.
Up until the 1870s, prairie fires used to burn from Canada down to Texas every few years.
Take a look at this list.

John F. Hultquist
September 6, 2009 7:30 pm

Bill Illis (16:28:21) : Canada & fires
When I was young in western Pennsylvania we went into church one day and came out two hours later and the sky was nearly dark. We were told smoke from fires in Canada was the cause. Don’t know for sure. It would have been about 1953 + or – a couple of years.
When Mt. St. Helens blew I witnessed a similar thing but was in northern Idaho at the time. I think for this one the sky was blacker. The first one was a long time ago so I might not have it quite right.
My family did not have a television then. Amazing how communications have changed. Today there would be a webcam (as at Mt. Wilson this past week) and we would have seen color video.

September 6, 2009 7:32 pm

“The western US seems to have a lot of arson. ”
We have a very long and predictable fire season. In any given place there are a number of “fire bugs”. They just have a greater opportunity to get their jollies in California.

September 6, 2009 7:35 pm

Take look at the Peshtigo fire.
Worst fire ever.

Mike McMillan
September 6, 2009 7:41 pm

John Silver (16:11:26) :
Alar on apples was a Fenton Communications project. Follow the FUD.

I always enjoyed getting that little bit of extra protein in my apples that a post-Alar worm provides. Thank goodness we’re getting ‘organic’ foods in the grocery stores now.
I’m just an old-fashioned guy who also misses cyclamates, hexachlorophene, ddt, tetraethyl lead, and diving boards. At least there’s mercury in the curly-cue fluorescents. I can’t imagine why NBCBS hasn’t gone after that danger to civilization yet.

September 6, 2009 8:13 pm

Yes, my wife and I like to watch these type of shows, and we both remember it as a re-run.
In my own neck of the woods, a group of eco-types once again sued the Forest Service trying to get the standing dead timber out to pay for the restoration of a burned area.
The eco-groups won, and by the time the appeals process is exhausted, there will be no salvage, the timber useless. Even worse, the dead vegetation will remain for the better part of a decade, during which time any type of lightning strike will find plenty of fuel to support an even bigger fire, taking out more forest.
The groups know this, and prefer the forest to burn uncontrolled. The judge gives them thier way, and the USFS is legally prevented from doing it’s federally mandated job, managing the forest.
The excuse is always the same, the result the same. They allege the USFS short-circuited the EIR.
The blame is then tranferred to Global Warming, when it fact it is legal wrangling over papers that amounts to frivolous technicalities.
The end result is Fire Terror ripping through renewable resources, economic waste, and a shortage of a truly green building product: Wood.
Watch the building shows. They are going green with all manner of plastics, glues, resins, foams, laminates, etc. that have a petrochemical base. Your new house has a new car smell, and you sleep with it.
But, it’s Global Warming that is the news, and a re-run at that.

Joe Miner
September 6, 2009 8:14 pm

Jaxa has finally updated with the following values:
09/04 5,365,781
09/05 5,340,156

September 6, 2009 8:15 pm

A quote from 1836 about Santa Barbara California:
“The town is certainly finely situated, with a bay in front, and an amphitheatre of hills behind. The only thing which diminishes its beauty is, that the hills have no large trees upon them, they having been all burnt by a great fire which swept them off about a dozen years before, and they had not yet grown up again. The fire was described to me by an inhabitant, as having been a very terrible and magnificent sight. The air of the whole valley was so heated that the people were obliged to leave the town and take up their quarters for several days upon the beach.”
Richard Dana: Two Years Before the Mast
Yeah those fires are a new event.

September 6, 2009 8:32 pm

I guess the Victorian bushfires of 2009 (our summer in Australia) didn’t rate a mention. We have since had a Royal Commission into the tragedy and I believe a lot of evidence pointed to poor forest management (i.e. lack of controlled, fuel-reducing burns) and arsonists. The details and interim reports are here:
The global warming causes catastrophic fires reminds me a bit of Crichton’s (RIP) Aliens Cause Global Warming title:
Difference being that his argument made sense.

September 6, 2009 9:16 pm

Ah, the AGW propaganda machine in full swing.
It’s kinda sad watching it. This is the culmination of over twenty years of propaganda and climate catastrophism….. over 50 billion dollars of tax payer funded research…… There have been no catastrophes. There will be no catastrophes. The next ten years won’t see the sky fall….. That is the trouble with false claims, eventually it is clear nothing has happened, nor will.
Also the AGW people are on a hiding to nothing. The news mob, perverse to the end, will turn on the AGW proponents in the next few years and will sensationalize this period as the greatest hoax on Earth. They will then be sooling the mob onto the AGW scientists and driving a campaign to “bring them to justice”.
There’ll be lots of politicians and Journalists ducking for cover and blaming scientists for bad facts.
The news media will be only too happy to oblige… After all, their sole concern is selling newspapers…. not facts.

September 6, 2009 9:20 pm

agesilaus (20:15:39) :
The only thing I can think of when I hear “we must act quickly” is to get out of the way of large, powerful moving things. Like raging forest fires, hurricanes, tsunamis and volcaones.
It’s the deliberate stuff that worries me, like arsonists and legally strangled forest management.

September 6, 2009 9:34 pm

I thought at least part of the problem with California was they’ve been importing good but highly flammable Eucalyptus trees from Australia since the 1850’s.

Alan D. McIntire
September 6, 2009 9:34 pm

From wikipedia:
Two giant sequoias, Sequoia National Park. Note the large fire scar at
the base of the right-hand tree; fires do not kill the trees but do
remove competing thin-barked species, and aid giant sequoia
regeneration.The giant sequoias are having difficulty reproducing in
their original habitat (and very rarely reproduce in cultivation) due
to the seeds only being able to grow successfully in mineral soils in
full sunlight, free from competing vegetation. Although the seeds can
germinate in moist needle humus in the spring, these seedlings will
die as the duff dries in the summer. They therefore require periodic
wildfire to clear competing vegetation and soil humus before
successful regeneration can occur. Without fire, shade-loving species
will crowd out young sequoia seedlings, and sequoia seeds will not
germinate. When fully grown, these trees typically require large
amounts of water and are therefore often concentrated near streams.
Fires also bring hot air high into the canopy via convection, which in
turn dries and opens the cones. The subsequent release of large
quantities of seeds coincides with the optimal post-fire seedbed
conditions. Loose ground ash may also act as a cover to protect the
fallen seeds from ultraviolet radiation damage.
Due to fire suppression efforts and livestock grazing during the early
and mid 20th century, low-intensity fires no longer occurred naturally
in many groves, and still do not occur in some groves today.”
Obviously human intervention unnaturally reduced the amount of fires to
BELOW natural levels over the course of the 20th century. These conflagrations are caused by unnatural worship of “Smokey the Bear”, and the suppression of
naturally occurring fires.
– A. McIntire

September 6, 2009 9:47 pm

A few years ago, I had the cool opportunity to go out a few times to help a friend with data collection in a Northern California forest for his phd work at a California university. His plots were in a demonstration forest, meaning, as well as I understand it, that it’s set aside for academic and Forest Service research of a wide range, including research into forest-management for increased and more environmentally sound timber production, and into best-forestry practices for fire management.
One of the days we were out there, he talked about how local and quasi-local residents, as well as certain prominent environmental groups, had been filing endless lawsuits to stop any cutting of trees or management-in-general within the demonstration forest, despite the fact the activity would have been for research rather than profit. He was very concerned about what it was doing to the potential fire danger in the forest, and completely dismissive of the rationales of the lawsuits, despite being the most environmentally conscientious (in an intelligent and informed way I truly, fully respect and admire) person I know.
I just bring up this up since the blog-post mentions the federal cut in timber harvests. While I’m sure this has to be a great element of the recent propensity for the West to burn, if the kind of prevalent obstructionist litigation that my friend described is going on in academic research forests, I have to assume that it’s going on ALL OVER the West, and it seems to me it could likely be a significant contributing factor to any recent “mega-fires”…

September 6, 2009 10:39 pm

On the same day as the Peshtigo and Chicago fires, the cities of Holland, and Manistee, Michigan, across Lake Michigan, also burned, and the same fate befell Port Huron at the southern end of Lake Huron.

Uhm, didn’t this strike anyone as being just a little “odd” that all these towns should burn on the same day in the same general region (upper midwest)?

September 6, 2009 10:51 pm

Douglas DC, thanks for the input. Yes, its all in the policies of how the land is taken care of and getting firefighters to their positions to save houses! Not much you can do when Arsonists are involved. It’s a shame that CBS continues to favor the Alarmists and use the “Scare” tactics to get their point across. These people have to be shown for who and what they are….Why don’t insurance companies put their foot down out there. If property management is not done then “No” insurance coverage! Period. Insurance companies are doing this along the Mississippi and along the Gulf and Atlantic. As with the Federal Government!

September 6, 2009 11:04 pm

Note the large fire scar at
the base of the right-hand tree; fires do not kill the trees but do
remove competing thin-barked species, and aid giant sequoia

My great-grandfather built a cabin near Aptos, CA, in a redwood forest. One of the trees very close to the cabin had a huge fire scar at the base, went up about 15-20 feet, like a concave divot taken out of the trunk. But the tree was strong and tall ( a few hundred feet, as I recall).

September 6, 2009 11:18 pm

The number of wildfire ignitions has been dropping for 20 years. In 1988 there were 154,573 fires. In 2008 there were 80,094 — approximately half that. At the same time, the average acres per fire has risen. Here are the federal wildfire counts, average size, and fire suppression appropriations from the National Interagency Fire Center and other sources:
year #fires ac/fire Appropriations($1,000’s)
2008 80,094 66 1,943,477
2007 86,168 113 1,823,603
2006 96,385 103 1,746,091
2005 66,552 131 2,128,487
2004 77,534 88 2,347,040
2003 85,943 57 1,370,967
2002 88,458 78 1,560,349
2001 84,079 42 1,262,346
2000 122,827 69 849,755
1999 93,702 60 664,176
1998 81,043 29 586,559
1997 89,517 41 830,016
1996 115,025 58 484,591
1995 130,019 18 951,101
1994 114,049 41 369,061
1993 97,031 24 479,362
1992 103,830 24 317,669
1991 116,953 19 430,468
1990 122,763 44 498,700
1989 121,714 27 606,446
1988 154,573 48 417,632
More interesting info. Human-caused fires are down, but lightning starts are about the same. Over the last 20 years rapid and aggressive response to fires has declined as the USFS has adopted various forms of Let It Burn, such as prescribed natural fires (PNF), wildland fire use (WFU), fires used for resource benefit (FURB), appropriate management response (AMR), etc. The fire bureaucracy has changed it’s approach, and so many fires are left to burn until they get enormous.
There is a lot of money spent on firefighting. The funding is basically on-demand. If fire suppression budgets are overspent, the shortfall is made up later with emergency appropriations. It is a racket, and the fire bureaucracy has Congress and state legislatures by the shorthairs.
There are claims that snowpack has lessened, snow melt is earlier, and fall rains are later. But empirical evidence suggests that none of that is true — there have been no significant trends in any of those factors.
But it is true that photosynthesis happens every year, and biomass accumulates. In other words, fuels build up. With the decline in active management (another bureaucratic trend), fuels are reaching record levels.
Another factor is that anthropogenic fire was once common across the Americas. Indian burning was extensive in pre-Columbian times but largely was eliminated 100 to 400 years ago (depending on locale). In Western forests in particular, in the last 100 years we have experienced biomass accumulations to a-historical levels not experienced before in the Holocene.
Fuels and fire management are the overriding independent factors. The climate has not changed significantly. The latest numbers indicate that temps have risen a whopping 0.2 degrees C over the last 30 years. That is insignificant and possibly not even real, since the measurement systems have large uncertainty and various problems like UHI effects.

September 6, 2009 11:34 pm

Regarding giant sequoia. The ages of the Big Trees are 1,000 to 1,500 years old. There are roughly four of those per acre. So to replenish the stand, one new seedling per acre must take root every 250 to 400 years.
Looking at things from that perspective, one realizes that regeneration in giant sequoia is not a problem. There is no purpose to many young seedlings per acre. That is not how that forest works. The desire to burn giant sequoia in catastrophic fires so as to aid regeneration is destructive and basically nuts (Taliban forestry).
Anthropogenic (human-set) fires kept those forests “clean” and enhanced the survival of trees to grow to phenomenal ages. In the absence of frequent, seasonal, tending fires the biomass has built up to catastrophic levels, so that fires today will kill the old giants. If we do not tend those forests, and mechanically remove the accumulated fuels, the old trees will die. Without human stewardship, priceless relics of great antiquity will be destroyed.

September 7, 2009 1:31 am

Forest fires are not a product of global warming, but of global madness: The madness of arsonists and maybe even extremist environmentalists who want us to believe in global warming by setting fires to our forests, after having lost the scientific argument on AGW. Copenhagen is 3 months away and they want to convince us that we need to ratify the son of Kyoto. -RUBBISH.

September 7, 2009 2:15 am

Many thoughtful comments on this thread. To put the current fire in perspective, I lived in Monrovia, CA from 1947 to 1962. The last time this particular area burned was in 1961, or perhaps 1960. That fire also threatened Mt. Wilson, burned both the front range of the San Gabriels and the back, up and over Mt. Waterman, the highest point in the range. Like the present case, it eventually was halted above Azusa, at the point where the San Gabriel River exits the mountains. Big canyon there helped to stop it. So, yeah, it has been almost 50 years since that area has been burned over.
Unmentioned above is the important factor that SoCal had record rainfall in 1904-5, more even than Krakatau’s results for1884. So, exuberant plant growth followed. The last two years have been relatively dry for SoCal and the combination of excess fuel + dry weather = momentary disaster. Like the Sequoias with which I’m familiar, the chaparral community of SoCal is also well adapted to wildfire.
In 1992, a wildfire was set at the northern end of Topanga Canyon during a period of high Santa Ana winds. It moved west, then down Malibu Canyon, destroyed many homes there and, in the evening, moved up Tuna Canyon, and back into Topanga. My wife and I, besides living high on the west side of Topanga, just below Saddle Peak, also owned 15 acres on the very top of the mountain (view from Pt. Dume to Mexico and out to Palm Springs). That property was completely burned, though the fire companies had no problem saving our house half a mile away and 800 feet lower.
When the fire was over, three days later, we went up to view the property. Every living thing, including many rabbits and several deer were completely incinerated. Burning brush had released an avalanche of rocks previously held back by the brush, so everything had changed. But the chaparral wasn’t dead by any means. Sensing opportunity, we immediately purchased 50 pounds of the largest available range of native wildflower seeds from many sources, mixed them with 100 pounds of vermiculite in a dog-sized wash tub and played Johnny Appleseed over the whole parcel, which has a 700 foot elevation variation.
Winter went, Spring came and we went to inspect the result. The wildflowers were spectacular lower down, and the chaparral was recovering, quickly. None of the individual plants had actually died in the “great fire.”
The great surprise was on the upper half of the property, a fairly steep mountainside. Few of our seeds had sprouted; instead the entire 7-8 acres were densly covered with blue lupines, a species we had never seen on the property before. There were hundreds of thousands of them, so many that it looked like a vast violet-blue carpet had been spread across the mountain.
Fast forward one year: There were no lupines, few of the sown wildflowers survived, and the brush was back in fine form.
If you’re a backpacker in LA, March would be a great month to head up Santa Anita Canyon, over the crest, and down into the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. You’ll see things you’ll never forget and will realize how little we people actually have anything to say about Nature’s whims.

September 7, 2009 3:13 am

The Age of Megafires?
Up above, Austin (19:35:12) : wrote this: Take look at the Peshtigo [USA] fire.
Worst fire ever. 1871.
To summarize; Maybe up to 1.5 million acres burnt and up to 2,500 human lives lost way back then!
Recent USA fires that are measured in 100,000+ acres ( 40, 500+ hectares) are mega fires?
The million+ acre USA fires of 1871 are unknown to “60 minutes“?
It’s the same sad story here in Australia:
I live in Victoria, the smallest mainland state of Oz, about the size of England. We too have had massive fires prior to global warming, but our population immersion therein was much less in those times.
For Victoria alone, (ignoring South Australia and N.S.W, our two neighbouring larger tragically fire-prone states):
1851_____About 12.5 million acres (or a quarter of Victoria burnt, 12 lives lost.
1926_____Area burnt not given but five widely dispersed areas affected, with 60 lives lost. (also widespread in other states)
1939_____3.7 to 4.5 million acres burnt, with 71 lives lost
1944_____Grass wild-fires burnt 2.5 million acres, and between 15 – 20 lives lost.
Most of the tragic fires in Victoria carry a day-name, such as “Ash Wednesday” 1983 (a modest 210,000 hectares/ 47 human fatalities) and the recent “Black Saturday” 2009 (430,000 hectares/ 173 human fatalities). These are the consequence of a weather front coming through on the one day resulting in excessive winds, sometimes with the worst possible combination of a sudden change in direction by around 90 degrees, where long but weak fire flanks then become fronts.
In my opinion, the worst Victorian fire, on a pro rata basis was that of 1939.… see list above. It could have been a lot worse had not back in those days they had fire bunkers, a simple defence mechanism since forgotten despite that the following Royal Commission strongly recommended their adoption in risk areas!
In general, the size of the Oz fires have gradually reduced since 1851, maybe because of the obvious measures of controlled burns to reduce fuel build-up, and the creation of firebreaks, deliberate and incidental, including significant highway construction etc.
However, especially since WW2, there has been a dramatic increase in population growth, which appears to be the major cause of risk of relatively benign ignition of fires which may later become tragic windblown wildfires. (probably not so much accidental on hot-windy fire-ban days, when responsible people may avoid such mistakes). However, those dangerous days are when arsonists have their fun, as they apparently severally did this recent “Black Saturday” in Victoria, killing a lot of people.
In a recent 20-year study for cause of bushfires since 1976/7 in Victoria @
26% were caused by lightning strike. (of dubious AGW cause)
25% were deliberately lit
6% unknown cause
43% other human causes including machinery, transmission lines, controlled burns that got away, etc etc.
Is that enough to show that AGW is NOT the driver of bushfires?
I could add more if anyone is unconvinced.

September 7, 2009 3:17 am

WHY arent we making a case that the Station Fire was ARSON???? The only reason there are megafires is because people are lighting them off in optimal places and times.

September 7, 2009 4:11 am

Here is an excellent debunking of the claims that the fires in California is caused by global warming by Joe Bastardi at
Must see video.
Debunking of Global warming fire claims

Leon Brozyna
September 7, 2009 4:51 am

Where have all the crises gone? Arctic sea ice melt has slowed to a crawl and looks to be bottoming out. One hurricane so far to date in the Atlantic with four wimpy tropical storms. Lacking a fresh crisis, looks like ABCNNBCBS et. al. will have to resort to retreads like that 60 Minutes exposé.
Spin for ratings ~ anything but truth.

Alan the Brit
September 7, 2009 4:55 am

From what I recall, the fairly recent bush fires in Australia were as a result of enviro-“mentalists” getting a ban on forest clearance to remove all the dead/bone-dry timber that naturally collected throughtout the forests, providing ample combustible material for burning. They also did a similar thing for householders who were banned from clearing trees around their properties for fire protection, making them more vulnerable to fire. I wonder if similar things have occurred in CA?

Jack Simmons
September 7, 2009 5:30 am

LloydG (15:11:03) :

60 minutes has absolutely no credibility anyway if your a sentient being and have watched this tripe alarmism in the past. Here is just a brief rundown of “news shows” I recall before completely and forever turning them off.

Didn’t Dan Rather of CBS fame lose his job over some faked papers involving George Bush and his military career?
I quit watching CBS years ago over their credibility. Same for Time magazine. Same for Scientific American.
Thank goodness for blog sites like this.

Jack Simmons
September 7, 2009 5:41 am

We have some really serious forest management issues all through the Rockies here in Colorado and Wyoming. The beetle kill has left thousands of acres of tinder dry wood just waiting for a dry season and a lightening strike.
Summit County, especially around Dillon Lake, is ripe for a major fire.
We were successful in suppressing fires for a long time.
Let’s see how it all works out.

September 7, 2009 5:54 am

” the fire was caused by arson”
Why do people do this? I’ve asked before, but no-one seems to know.

September 7, 2009 6:09 am

LloydG (15:11:03)
One 60 Minutes scare story you left out was the one on dental amalgam (Dec 16, 1990). That one along with the Audi and Alar stories was the reason I vowed never to watch 60 Minutes again.

September 7, 2009 6:16 am

I have commented on the tip thread that the Cogswell Reservoir station is in the path of the Station Fire and may be reporting from a greatly altered environment after the smoke dies down. Are there other stations that have gone through such changes whose output may show the local long-term temperature effects of large fires?

September 7, 2009 7:04 am

The age of mega-propaganda comes to mind.

Mike Pickett
September 7, 2009 7:59 am

Some call it “Hegelian Dialectic,” Lenin said “A lie told often enough becomes truth.” Rather than offend the silly or naive, but still impugning motives, I chose to call this ongoing process “neuro-linguistic programming.”
But, it’s all the same, when push comes to shove.

September 7, 2009 8:42 am

tallbloke (05:54:21) :
I believe the key to the criminal mind lies in the inability to see the world in anything more than ‘today’. The insanity of crime varies, and ‘today’ also varies with each criminal mind.
The arsonist, like other crimnal minds, always returns to the scene of the crime. If not to revisit thier ‘today’ thrill, then to start another one. They dwell in the pleasure of what they have done, to do otherwise causes them the pain of losing thier ‘today’.

September 7, 2009 9:21 am

It was a bad night for me. First I began watching this 60min. BS, laughed a little bit, but then was quickly tired of it. Nothing else on TV, so I wandered into the living room to watch “Escape To Witch Mountain” with my wife and daughter. And wouldn’t you know it, even THAT movie made reference to “The Earth’s Changing Climate”. Can they not produce any news story or movie anymore without BS, AGW references? Getting to the point where it’s no longer informational or amusing, it’s just very old and tiring.
And now, unbelievably, my wife and daughter are watching “The Chaos Experiment” with Val Kilmer. Even after I warned them that it is the ultimate snoozer of a direct-to-video movie. One of the worst in a very long time.
REPLY: Try Barney – A

David Ball
September 7, 2009 9:29 am

It is amazing that there are people who believe everything that is put in front of them. I guess it is just easier for the masses to swallow garbage like this than to think about it ( perhaps even ask questions or research ) and find out if what you are being told is based on fact. There are species of trees that require fire to release their seeds. There are even species of birds and animals that thrive in areas that have been burned out. They have adapted to this over millennia. Fire is not a new thing that has popped up all of a sudden. Perhaps the majority of people do not mind being duped. Makes me shudder. Go to google earth and fly over Canadian forests at about 1 km above. See if you can find a burned out forests, or even clear cut forest, if you can. If you find any, calculate what percentage of the forest has been burned or clear cut. You will see it is miniscule in the extreme. Great comments all.

September 7, 2009 9:42 am

The comments debunking the 60 minutes story are way off base.
There are 2 factors affecting forest fires – human land use, and global warming.
The 60 minutes report focussed on the effects of global warming, which contrary to what some posters here proclaim, are real and explain the reasons for fires in certain types of forests.
Warming and Earlier Spring Increase Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity
A. L. Westerling,1,2* H. G. Hidalgo,1 D. R. Cayan,1,3 T. W. Swetnam4
“Western United States forest wildfire activity is widely thought to have increased in recent decades, yet neither the extent of recent changes nor the degree to which climate may be driving regional changes in wildfire has been systematically documented. Much of the public and scientific discussion of changes in western United States wildfire has focused instead on the effects of 19th- and 20th-century land-use history. We compiled a comprehensive database of large wildfires in western United States forests since 1970 and compared it with hydroclimatic and land-surface data. Here, we show that large wildfire activity increased suddenly and markedly in the mid-1980s, with higher large-wildfire frequency, longer wildfire durations, and longer wildfire seasons. The greatest increases occurred in mid-elevation, Northern Rockies forests, where land-use histories have relatively little effect on fire risks and are strongly associated with increased spring and summer temperatures and an earlier spring snowmelt.”
The error made by the 60 minutes program was that it didn’t mention the land use explanation at all, and explain the different causes in different forests.
It did illustrate what happens in the lodgepole pine forests where the influence of climate is strong, and land use did not affect the incidence and intensity of fire.
REPLY: “There are 2 factors affecting forest fires – human land use, and global warming.”
So before humans and “global warming” there was no change in forest fires?
I think you’ve oversimplified the situation. – A

P Walker
September 7, 2009 10:14 am

What bothered me was the sensationalized presentation . The story was about the fire that burned just west and south of Ketchum ID last year . As usual , the forests in Southern ID were tinder dry by late summer – the fire danger is often extreme that time of year . Several comments here have covered the forestry management problems endemic in the West and their resultant fire hazard . You are correct . The Ketchum fire was a disaster that had been waiting to happen for at least two decades . The coverage on “60 Minutes” was pure hype . I forget the exact size of the fire , but about twenty years ago a fire burned over two hundred thousnd acres just west of Hailey , ID , some twenty miles south of Ketchum . During the eighties , a series of wildfires burned hundreds of thousands of range land across Southern ID . I have no idea why the firefighter claimed that fires have grown larger and more frequent over the last decade .

September 7, 2009 10:28 am

Someone asked if CA is banning cutting of trees near houses for environmental reasons. The lastest building/fire codes now *require* clearing of brush at least 100 feet out from structures:

Ed Fix
September 7, 2009 11:50 am

CBS really learned their lesson after Dan Rather was fired over Memogate. Unfortunately, the lesson they learned is that this appearance of objectivity stuff just isn’t worth the effort.

Gary Pearse
September 7, 2009 12:37 pm

Six of the 20 were human caused (arson and unintentional), two are under investigation, one of which is the Station Fire this year which is believed to be arson. Also, there are some arson ones that didn’t make it into the top 20. Most of the Arson and other “human” seem to have occurred when this would be helpful to the AGW agenda.

Reed Coray
September 7, 2009 7:08 pm

The statement:
“More rubbish from 60 Minutes tonight”
is redundant.

Douglas DC
September 7, 2009 8:56 pm

eric (09:42:41) :
“The comments debunking the 60 minutes story are way off base.
There are 2 factors affecting forest fires – human land use, and global warming
It did illustrate what happens in the lodgepole pine forests where the influence of climate is strong, and land use did not affect the incidence and intensity of fires.”

Ok Lodgepole pine is _not_ a primary species-it in the lower 48, in particular is a
secondary species.Something on the way to the primary, dominant, Species, like say,Ponderosa or Jeffery Pine.Lodgepole is prone to fire as part of it’s very nature.
fiber quality, and content makes it vulnerable.BTW springs seem to be getting a bit later here in NE Oregon. Snowpacks are variable by their very nature,and cyclical.
No, as someone who has been in and around the woods of the west most of my life,
man and boy,I do see man’s hand, but one of mismanagement,not I driving my F-150…

September 7, 2009 9:41 pm

crosspatch (22:39:42) :

On the same day as the Peshtigo and Chicago fires, the cities of Holland, and Manistee, Michigan, across Lake Michigan, also burned, and the same fate befell Port Huron at the southern end of Lake Huron.

Uhm, didn’t this strike anyone as being just a little “odd” that all these towns should burn on the same day in the same general region (upper midwest)?

No, not particularly, not the way the story went/how it was explained that the Peshtigo fire was caused by embers from the Chicago fire (if memory serves me correct having read the story years back) and considering the dryness/the drought that I think they were having – no, not odd really …
Did you have something more? I was unaware that fires were ocurring across the lake in Michigan though.

September 7, 2009 9:50 pm

tallbloke (05:54:21) :
” the fire was caused by arson”
Why do people do this? I’ve asked before, but no-one seems to know.

“Never let a good crises go to waste” – owed contemoprarily to either Axelrod or Emmanual early 2009 (it is irrelevant in any case) but sometimes you have to create your own ‘crises’ by starting your own fire (referring now to the one or two fire-suppression people they have caught through the years involved in arson and for the creating of a ‘crises’ and an environment in which they felt they could ‘shine’, be of service and – wait for it – needed.)

September 8, 2009 12:29 am

Severe bush fires?
Well, the ghost gum has evolved a silvery bark as a natural defence against wild fires, and many other trees have their own strategies. I imagine that this evolution could only have happened since 1970, as there were no fires before then.
Sorry … you say that ghost gums have been like that for thousands of years? Impossible, CO2 emissions only started in the ’70s.

September 8, 2009 4:57 am

tallbloke (05:54:21) :
” the fire was caused by arson”
“Why do people do this? I’ve asked before, but no-one seems to know.”
I can tell you why in this case. The city of La Canada/Flintridge was discussing laying off a number of firefighters to save money in Californias current budget crisis. It is rather obvious that a firefighter, or a relative of one, set the Station fire to prevent a layoff.

Douglas DC
September 8, 2009 6:54 am

The problem of laying off firefighters isn’t the threat of arson, but the knife to the taxpayer’s throat.You never hear of overhead getting the axe, do you…
Same for police and maintenance….

Jeff in Ctown
September 8, 2009 9:33 am

Bill Illis (16:28:21) : Canada Fires
I have seen those google maps satalitte images many times, but never drew a correlation to fires. You are probably correct. Some of those patches look to be about the size of California. Kind of brings things back into prospective.

September 8, 2009 1:14 pm

Many of these Western ecosystems are fire dependent. Over time ALL chaparral will burn, ALL lodgepole forests will burn, ALL sequoia forests will burn. I’m amazed the eco-activists have so little understanding of ecology.

September 8, 2009 2:49 pm

Jack Simmons (05:41:40) :
“We have some really serious forest management issues all through the Rockies here in Colorado and Wyoming.”
Yep, the forest is a match looking for a light.
I talked to a ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, and he finally admitted that they would rather that it go ahead and burn and get it over with. Among other problems, they have had to clear trees from campgrounds due to the danger of falling limbs and trees.
I’m sure that it will be the fault of AGW when it happens.

September 9, 2009 5:44 pm

Jim (21:41:53) (9-7-09)
“No, not particularly, not the way the story went/how it was explained that the Peshtigo fire was caused by embers from the Chicago fire (if memory serves me correct having read the story years back) and considering the dryness/the drought that I think they were having – no, not odd really …”
That’s just not credible. Peshtigo is 221 miles from Chicago. I’ve lived in Wisconsin my whole life except when I went to Northwestern University and I’ve never heard that.
Real answer: coincidence.

September 29, 2009 2:23 pm

Howard (17:44:00) :

That’s just not credible. Peshtigo is 221 miles from Chicago. I’ve lived in Wisconsin my whole life except

Well, now, yes it could be; you’re assuming a single ember traveling the ENTIRE distance in one fell swoop whereas the effects from the Chicago fire could have hop-scotched the distance –
– consider a successive series of fires, each producing embers, each ember successively producing fires further away …

Molika Ashford
October 22, 2009 12:37 pm

After having your post passed to me by my boss, I’ve taken a detailed look at the Megafires piece here:
In reporting, I found some interesting factual problems that I talk about in my story. While they’re not exactly the issues you bring up above (It seemed to me that a number of your critiques don’t really apply that well to this particular report) I invite you to check out my post and see what you think.

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