Fact-checking the NY Times’ Fact-checking

Guest Opinion by Kip Hansen


featured_imageThe NY Times is obsessed with the President — it cannot report anything without taking a pot shot at him.

In this case, NY Times Climate journalist, Kendra “Gloom is My Beat” Pierre-Louis, wades into the roiling waters of Climate Change and Politics, apparently far over her head.

The article in point is “Fact Check:  Trump’s Misleading Claims About California’s Fire ‘Mismanagement’”, the NY Times’ response to a Presidential Tweet.  Thanks to the brilliant investigative reporting of the Times’ staff writer, we get the lede as a subtitle: “On Twitter, the president claimed that the state’s wildfire woes are a result of poor forest management. The truth is more complicated.”

Who would have imagined that the complex problem of California wildfires could actually be “more complicated” than the President could communicate in 140 characters?

What did the President Tweet?


If we didn’t have the NY Times to tell us that it’s more complicated than that, we might have thought [if we were totally illiterate utter morons] that the problem was just Bad Forest Management and could be solved by denying California federal forest dollars.  /sarc

It’s quite clear you see — the most careful nit-picking reveals that:

“This is misleading.

Mr. Trump is suggesting that forest management played a role, but California’s current wildfires aren’t forest fires.

“These fires aren’t even in forests,” said Max Moritz, a wildfire specialist at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Rather, the Camp and Woolsey fires, which are ripping through Northern and Southern California, began in areas known as the wildland-urban interface: places where communities are close to undeveloped areas, making it easier for fire to move from forests or grasslands into neighborhoods.” — NY Times’ Kendra Pierre-Louis

Technically, Kendra “Gloom is my Beat” tells us, it’s not a forest fire — it is a “wildland-urban interface” fire.   We can see that this is not forest:


Pictured above: Paradise before the fire.

It’s the Burger King and the church both neatly tucked in amongst the pine trees that make it “not a forest”.


So when the pine trees burn like a blast furnace fed by 50 mph winds, whipped into a frenzied fire storm, it’s not a forest fire unless it’s in an official forest — the President was misleading us all by calling it a forest fire instead of …  what?  Maybe he should have said “wildfire” because it wasn’t actually in an official forest?  How utterly inane.

By the way, it is simply false that the Camp Fire “began in areas known as the wildland-urban interface”.  The Camp Fire, which destroyed Paradise, is known to have started near Pulga, which is east and a little north of Paradise, in the Plumas National Forest.   So, the fire starts in a forest — a National Forest — and driven by high winds becomes a virtual fire storm that sweeps through the “wildland-urban interface” called Paradise.

“According to the [United States Department of Agriculture] report, 44 million houses, equivalent to one in every three houses in the country, are in the wildland-urban interface. The highest concentrations are in Florida, Texas and, yes, California.” — NY Times

To be perfectly clear, if fatuous,  when lots of people (1 out of every 3)  build houses in a forest, it is no longer a forest but becomes a “wildland-urban interface” by definition and therefore, the Times’ informs us, any subsequent fire there is not a forest fire.

“And the most “deadly and costly” fires happen at the wildland-urban interface, because they damage houses, towns and lives. The Camp Fire has already matched the deadliest fire in state history, killing at least 29 people, and the death toll may rise.

“We have vulnerable housing stock already out there on the landscape. These are structures that were often built to building codes from earlier decades and they’re not as fire resistant as they could be,” Dr. Moritz said. “This issue of where and how we built our homes has left us very exposed to home losses and fatalities like these.” — NY Times

Well, I’m glad that’s settled (and I hope the President has learned his lesson).

And what else did the President get wrong in 140 characters?  Apparently, everything according to the Times.

“What Trump said: ” Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. “

The statement suggests that California’s forest-management problems are at fault. But the majority of California’s forests are federally held.

Of the state’s 33 million acres of forest, federal agencies, including the Forest Service and the Interior Department, own and manage 57 percent. Forty percent are owned by families, Native American tribes or companies, including industrial timber companies; just 3 percent are owned and managed by state and local agencies.” — NY Times

After insisting that the Camp Fire was not in a forest (and incorrectly claiming that the fire did not start in a forest — it did), the Times insists that because the federal government controls 57 percent of California’s forests it must be their — the Federal Government’s — fault.  Not to put too fine a point on this, but if one is going to insist that  it was not a forest fire and did not happen in a forest — how can the Federal Government’s majority control of the forests enter into the discussion?

That’s my fact-check of the NY Times’ failed fact-check.

My question?  Has the NY Times editorial staff lost its collective mind altogether?

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I must admit I get weary of the NY Times’ absurd Editorial Narrative on the Environment and Climate Change — so many of their pieces on these topics are sophomoric and some are just plain silly — the above is a fine example of the “silly” category.

[Don’t they have real live Editors any more? — guys and gals with a lifetime of  experience and a cigar or cigarette holder stuck in the side of their mouth — real life Perry Whites — who have seen it all and are tired of Cub Reporters making the paper look stupid?]

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This story does have a serious side — and bless her heart, Pierre-Louis actually reports on it in a different article co-authored by Jeremy White.  This article is the real story behind the recent California Fires:

Americans Are Moving Closer to Nature, and Into Fire Zones

The fact is that one out of every three American homes are being built or already exist in “wildland-urban interface” or in the “wildland-urban intermixed” areas.

Here’s the definitions:

“The WUI [Wildland-Urban Interface] definition in the Federal Register was developed to identify communities at risk in the vicinity of public lands. According to this definition, “the Wildland-Urban Interface is the area where houses meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland vegetation” (USDA and USDI 2001).

Areas where houses and wildland vegetation intermingle are referred to as intermix WUI.

Developed areas that abut wildland vegetation are characterized as interface WUI.

Although this definition was developed in conjunction with wildland fire policy, it does not explicitly account for differences in fire risk.

[reformatted for clarity — kh]

The Wildland-Urban Interface In The United States —  RADELOFF et al. (2005)

The Camp Fire situation looks like this, in a series of images: (first one is a repeat)



The Camp Fire is believed to have started in Pulga — just east and north of the number 70 on the highway just outside of the red circle around Paradise.  It is in the Pulmas National Forest, and indicated as WUI on the Silvis WUI map (second below).

Chico is a town – a city – it has houses and stores and a university.  Paradise is both wildland-urban interface and wildland-urban intermix:


A close look at Paradise from the satellites:


Where we see gray and green intermixed we are looking at areas like these (repeating the picture far above):


The buildings (and the homes) are quaintly nestled into the landscape of coniferous forest — this is both intentional and foolish.

The result of this desire to get right into “Nature” is this:


Photo credit:  Noah Berger/AP

And the Woolsey Fire in Malibu?


The Woolsey Fire started in the upper right hand corner, in the interface/intermix area shown (in the last image)  in yellow and orange.  Southern California’s infamous Santa Anna winds — the Diablo Wind, the Devil Wind — swept down from the northeast, blowing the fire south and west through the rugged chaparral-covered hills all the way to the sea at Malibu  [whose point produces the famous surfing conditions there ].


Southern California chaparral “is characterized by nearly impenetrable, dense thickets (except the more open chaparral of the desert). These plants are highly flammable during the late summer and autumn months when conditions are characteristically hot and dry. They grow as woody shrubs with thick, leathery, and often small leaves, contain green leaves all year (are evergreen), and are typically drought resistant (with some exceptions). After the first rains following a fire, the landscape is dominated by small flowering herbaceous plants, known as fire followers, which die back with the summer dry period.” [source: Wiki]  The chaparral is routinely destroyed —  and restored — by infrequent fires (burning on average every 10-15 years).

[I grew up in Southern California — Los Angeles born and raised with university in Santa Barbara just north up the coast.  I saw chaparral wildfires many times — manzanita brush can almost literally explode as the Santa Anna winds push fire through the hills and canyons — fleeing a chaparral fire in the hills is a terrifying experience that you will want to skip.]

We humans make lots of mistakes — one of them is building homes in among the trees and chaparral.  We also build on crumbling sea cliffs, hurricane prone ocean fronts, in known flood plains and on sand bars/barrier islands — we build our homes in the darnedest and most dangerous places.

We never seem to learn.

Fact-Check Wrap Up:  The Times apparently feels compelled to denigrate the sitting President at every opportunity.  He did use the language of the common man, calling these fires “forest fires” – quite correctly.  In the case of the Camp Fire, they have been  super-charged by decades of misguided forest management policies that have left many western forests with very high fuel loads — the result of policies that called for quick response suppression of every fire instead of letting the natural succession of fire and recovery take place.  We are now paying the price.  This mismanagement was almost universal and cannot properly be blamed on the Federal Government or State Government alone.  State, County and municipal planners have created fire-risk nightmares all over the country by allowing homes to be built in areas that are at extremely high risk of fire.  It is “more complicated” – – the situation will not be improved or corrected, nor could it possibly be, by denying California federal forest funds.

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Author’s Comment Policy:

We have seen these same types of problems with flooding, storm surge and hurricanes.  Localities have failed to protect their citizens by forbidding the building of homes and businesses in know high-risk areas — and for many years failed to enact and enforce sensible building codes for the protection of buildings in risky locations.  In my youth, homes all over California had beautiful redwood shake roofing — and redwood shake siding — which would dry to tinder in the hot dry California summers, igniting at the first few sparks from distant fires. They are now forbidden, but only after huge loses of homes.   It is complicated and causes and results are chaotic in nature.

Where are the codes requiring sensible set-backs from highly flammable local vegetation?  And codes specifying non-flammable siding and roofing?  And codes requiring adequate cleared roadside verges that won’t turn fire escape routes into graveyards?

I am blessed by living in a modern Eden — the central Hudson Valley of New York State — where we have sensible, four-season weather with few extremes, [almost] no tornadoes, no hurricanes, and no fire storms.   The area is heavily wooded but receives so much rain that forest fires, involving trees, are very rare — we do have occasional brush fires.    The humidity makes for a bad allergy season though.  And we  had six to eight inches of beautiful light white snow last night.

I am discouraged by the lack of journalistic standards in general and appalled that the NY Times has reverted to old fashioned Yellow Journalism.

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214 thoughts on “Fact-checking the NY Times’ Fact-checking

    • Recall the Angora Fire near Meyers at S. Lake Tahoe in 2007, which destroyed 242 residences and 67 commercial structures. The Tahoe Regional planning Agency controlled and restricted homeowners’ ability to cut down trees and clear defensible space. Many trees that had been “approved” for removal were marked, but had not been removed when the fire started. The League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club’s influence on TRPA was singled out by homeowners in filing a class action lawsuit after the fire. Many residents also complained that the U.S. Forest Service had allowed about 165,000 acres of its land to become overgrown, further endangering adjacent homes, and fueling the property loss caused by the Angora Fire. “The house survived because we broke the law,” said Brent Abrams, 20. He and his mother cut down trees on Forest Service land near their house and replaced them with a grassy lawn, something the authorities likely would have never allowed. Many of their neighbors’ homes were destroyed, and only chimneys remain. “The federal government and TRPA didn’t create the fire, but it was because of their actions it was so extensive,” he said.

    • Kip H:
      Stop reading the New York Times!

      If you’re reading it,
      then you must be paying for it.

      Why would anyone with sense,
      which includes you,
      support such a leftist-biased

      If you have pet birds, however,
      it makes a good bird cage liner.

      • Richard ==> The New York Times is one of the world’s “Newspapers of Record”.

        If one wants to know what is happening and what is being said about what is happening, one has to read W I D E L Y.

        If one just reads outlets that one already agrees with, one becomes stupider every day.

        • You evaded my comment
          about PAYING
          for a newspaper
          that you criticize.
          Mr. sneaky Hansen,
          probably because you
          DO PAY for the NY Times !

          If you PAY FOR the New York
          Times, then you ARE supporting
          their strong leftist-bias (a bias
          which you could find in hundreds
          of other FREE websites / media sources).

          Which makes you a hypocrite !

          If you read the New York Times for FREE,
          at a library, book store, or get yesterday’s
          Times from a neighbor, then
          you would NOT be supporting
          a newspaper you criticize.

          You last sentence:
          “If one just reads outlets
          that one already agrees with,
          one becomes stupider every day.”,
          … is an ignorant, wrong generalization,
          and I can’t believe you wrote it.

          It assumes one will automatically agree
          with everything published by
          a favorite media source.

          It assumes people are not intelligent
          enough to judge each article, or study,

          It suggests that anyone at this website
          ought to spend just as much time at
          pro-global warming websites —
          yes that is the ‘Hansen solution’
          for “balance”.

          Do YOU submit articles to websites that
          believe in CAGW?

          Do YOU spend much time reading articles
          at websites that publish only pro-CAGW articles?

          If you don’t, then why not?

          • Richard ==> I see you are back in high form today.
            I pay for the NY Times because I read it — and would not find it convenient to get it second-hand. For years it was free on the internet, but the world has changed. Contrary to your opinion, reading news outlets with a differing political view than one’s own is not hypocritical — it is the only intellectually honest thing one can do.

            You are absolutely right — I do think that the average citizen is not equipment, intellectually, educationally, or by temperament to read widely and judge each article or news item through a sharply focused set of critical thinking skills.

            I do think that most people could be trained to do so if they had the desire and the patience and free time to dedicate to catching up on missed educational opportunities.

            I do read pro-CAGW blogs and media, and hundreds of pro-AGW scientific papers every month.

            Thank you for writing.

          • Hansen !
            “Contrary to your opinion, reading news outlets with a differing political view than one’s own is not hypocritical — it is the only intellectually honest thing one can do.”

            You “misread” what I wrote,
            probably deliberately,
            because you had no logical answer.

            It is hypocritical to criticize the New York Times,
            as you do,
            while PAYING for a subscription,
            as you do,
            thereby supporting their business.

            There are hundreds of other leftist-biased
            media sources available for free — you’ll
            get similar ”CO2 is evil’ articles and
            summaries of (science fiction)
            “climate studies”.

            Anyone who criticizes the New York Times,
            yet pays them for a subscription,
            is a hypocrite.

            And that would be you.

            I typed slow this time, Hansen,
            so even you could understand.

    • Close. Its Jerry’s fault, for VETOING a bill in 2016, that would have put power lines underground, in vulnerable areas.

      The bill was a unanimous, bi-partisan bill, by the way.

        • I suspect the large democrat majority only voted in favor of the bill with the knowledge and promise that Jerry Brown would veto it. That way they look good to their base and a termed out Brown takes the heat. I doubt they would have voted to override the veto and as the majority, they never brought it up. Typical democrat politics.

      • Les,

        To be the Devil’s Advocate here, it isn’t always possible to put lines underground. Pulga is an old railroad ‘town’ in the Feather River canyon. It is mostly Serpentinite around there with VERY steep canyon walls. What little soil is there is typically very shallow. PG&E has hydroelectric facilities up the canyon and, to be useful, the power has to be brought down to the Sacramento Valley. To put the lines “underground” would be a major engineering project of blasting and tunneling, well above potential flood water levels, on the steep slopes.

        There are transformer substations located along the river. To bury them would really not be feasible. Until we know exactly where and how the fire started, it is premature to propose solutions. However, from what little we do know, it appears that the steep canyon walls facilitated the fire moving up out of the canyon by updrafting. Inside the canyon, there are few harvestable pine trees. It is more a mix of scattered Bull Pine, oak, and manzanita. They have little commercial value and would be extremely difficult (expensive!) to remove. Besides, removing them would de-stabilize the slopes, leading to landslides on the rail line, Highway 70, and the shallow reservoirs.

        Perhaps fire barriers could be built at the top of the canyon to prevent fires in the canyon from moving out into the forest. However, the real problem was flammable structures in Paradise. Notice the Burger King restaurant in the article. It appears to have a flat roof, (better to catch embers) and is probably sealed with flammable asphalt. Living in an environment like Paradise requires extraordinary measures to build fire-resistant structures. Few people did it because of all the retired people on limited incomes moving there to take advantage of the low cost of living (cheap housing!). To invest heavily in retrofitting the existing homes would have negated the advantage of (relatively) cheap housing there.

        While I’m not impressed with Governor Moonbeam’s performance, I wouldn’t put all the blame on him. To quote Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and is it us.”

        • Is it possible to run electric power lines in conduits where burial is not possible and overhead exposure is susceptible?

        • “It is mostly Serpentinite”…. ohh, good source rock for Asbestos. (A naturally occurring California “resource”.)

        • It is pretty clear by now that the only practical thing PG&E could have done is to have de-energized the lines before the wind blew hard enough to knock a line loose or to blow something onto a line. It is impossible to put enough continuously operating wind gages EVERYWHERE in a mountainous region such as this so the only answer left is to disconnect at a conservatively low wind speed 9measured in other places. The meteorologists are pretty good at predicting when Santa Anna Winds will occur but not the exact force and direction everywhere.

        • in australia the powercos cut trees under and a fair disatance from lines
          they even access homeowners property and will cut trees there
          ive had them drive a 3ton truck with cherrypicker to cut ONE branch some idiot saw as a hazard
          15ft off ground and 30ft below lines height and in no way concievable could that branch be an issue, the tree was also some 30ft away from the lines the entire thing could topple and not be a risk….
          at the same time victoria still uses WOOD powerpoles!!!!
          sth aus uses “stobie poles” steelbeam with concrete inserts or recently round steel ones, and majority of powerto homes where possible to retrofit or for new estates is ALL underground.
          vic claims underground power..ha ha hilarious they run huge lines over my property THEN from the pole to the house, well that tiny least risk section IS buried 50 or so cm deep

      • Good luck putting power lines underground here:
        “PARADISE, CA – NOVEMBER 09: Fire smolders under high voltage towers in Pulga, Calif., November 9, 2018, near the reported start of the Camp Fire blaze that destroyed the town of Paradise”.

        So note that this area where the fire started is not what most think of as forest but rather trees growing in very rocky valleys. The rock is not very conducive to forest growth but rather scrub growing among isolated trees. PS&E reported that the fire started in grass in the cleared area below the power line. It’s also my understanding that the area near Paradise which had been recently logged was the area where the fire spread the fastest.
        As someone else has said the trees around the houses weren’t badly burned it appears that the houses were what burned the most. Embers were being carried 2 miles ahead of the fire itself, I heard one report from a family who saw the fire crest the ridge a few hundred yards away. They grabbed some things and ran to their car (the wife wanted to go upstairs to get some more things, the husband said there was no time), by the time they got in the car the house was burning! The fire spread incredibly rapidly, most likely by the airborn embers not the fire itself.

        • Still makes more sense than Brown’s choo-choo train. And can actually save lives and prevent property damage in the future.

    • The root of the problem is that 100 years of ever-increasing technology has resulted in humans losing all respect for Nature’s power. We “think” we’re in “control.” We also seem to have a functional collective memory of about 15 years–if no major disaster has happened in that time, what the hell, build anything wherever you want! The erroneous idea we can “control” natural processes is why the “climate change” hoodwink was so easy to pull over so many people’s eyes–usually those who’ve never been outside long enough to get dirt under their fingernails.

      • Goldrider,
        Actually the “collective memory” is shorter than 15 years. A bad fire swept through Paradise just 10 years ago!

        • This wildfire event shows all of us that mankind is just a tenant on this globe where Mother nature rules as the all powerful ruler. The power of mother nature’s tools; wildfires, tornadoes, winds, rainstorms, hailstorms, lightning, snowstorms, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, droughts, heat waves, killer frosts, and ice ages, show us that we will forever be at their mercy. President Trump’ tweet against California policies is on the same plane as our skeptic fight against the climate establishment on the CO2 scam which is a fight for the truth against evil forces that don’t care if they damage the structure of science itself. Our hearts go out to all the families that have lost loved ones, their homes … etc. to this wildfire.

      • Good article, Kip.

        + 10 Goldrider

        And what kicked in this forest mismanagement thing? Can you say spotted owl? You know, the kind of owl that can’t fly from tree to tree and nest in another area. That kept the timber companies from managing the forests that provided their renewable resource that provided their income and jobs for hundreds.

        Did you know the ancients put up stones along Japan’s northern coasts for hundreds of years that said [paraphrasing here] “. . .don’t build your houses any closer to the sea than this stone or a tsunami will wash you away.” Fact. But along comes selves with our seawalls and we tell people “. . .you can forget about them stones now . . .” Can’t do that on ocean shores anywhere and not expect a hurricane, typhoon, or tsunami to flatten what you live in. Or build in dry arroyos in the desert. Or forests that are known to burn.

  1. Firebreaks and clearing power lines save lives!
    Cutting down nearby gum trees saved the Sheahans’ home in Australia – when all those around were destroyed –
    BUT they had been fined $100,000 for cutting down the trees –
    the very firebreak ended up saving their property
    when all their neighbor’s properties were lost.
    Trimming trees near power lines is also critical.
    In North California 17 of 21 major fires were caused by power lines, poles etc owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

    • From Snopes “fact check”:

      What’s True
      In September 2016, Governor Brown vetoed SB 1463, a bill in the California legislature which would have required the California Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas at increased risk from overhead wires in their management of wildfires.

      What’s False
      There is no evidence that Brown’s veto contributed to or exacerbated the risk or prevalence of wildfires in California, and the California Public Utilities Commission provided details showing that it had already been engaged in work similar to the proposals contained in SB 1463.

      Sure, no evidence – just a plenty of fires so started.

      • I’ve got a screenshot on my phone of a google search where the top two hits are “fact checks” on whether Amazon paid net federal taxes. First was a “Mostly True” for Bernie Sanders making the claim, and directly below was a “Pants on fire” for Trump making the same claim.

        I’ve heard 70% of Americans no longer trust the MSM, and my only question is how did 30% of Americans become deaf, dumb, and blind?

      • Doing nothing about fires started by power lines did not cause an increase in fires caused by power lines, therefore there was no harm done by vetoing a bill about reducing fires caused by power lines.

    • I hope that a very serious and detailed forensic investigation is being done with regards to fires seemingly being blamed on power lines. While the lines are subject to issues due to the nature of high voltage and tree interference, sabatage would be easy and I would not discuss that on an open forum. In the case of the ‘Camp’ fire the start location seems to fairly closely identified and a fast moving fire could leave some evidence if that were the case. One would just need to know what to look for.

      • There are recorded insulator damage claims by PG&E, probably by shooters. Remote Transmission lines (as in the Feather River Canyon – Camp Fire start area) are expensive to maintain/repair when man caused damage has occurred. CPUC – California Public Utility Commission controls all service rate requests.

        I have an aerial photo of Butte County (small area) taken by the U.S. Military 1947 or 48. Distribution electric lines have far more clearance than what is mandated today. This photo does not have Transmission lines.

        Paradise was a tragedy waiting to happen. 1950 the population density would not override the existing ingress-egress. Traffic crash-in an emergency evacuation must be planned on-rapid mitigation

        California in 1960 had demarcation between Urban and Wildland. Today referenced Urban-Interface (with wildland). PG&E – electric transmission and or distribution is financially under the oversight eyes of the CPUC – California Public Utility Commission. Rate increases are the components that are under constant debate.

        http://www.tanc.us/transmission_qanda.html — “Underground: The higher the energy transmitted, the more heat is generated. With overhead transmission lines, the air surrounding the lines acts as an insulator and absorbs this waste heat. In underground transmission lines other mediums must be used to dissipate this heat, which to-date has restricted the under grounding of transmission lines to voltages less than 500-kV except for very short distances.”

        Someone in PG&E made the decision to Not shut this fire starting line down. Or the shut down was too late. This portion of the Feather River Canyon is known for high winds at night – down canyon. Referred to as the Jarbo Zephyr, coupled with a high-pressure center. This phenomena has not been clarified scientifically. Some 1950-60’s canyon wildland fire fighters knew something was happening, not on every night fire, but some. The Big Bend is the choke point of a down canyon.

    • Prescribed Fires
      182,860 prescribed fires in Florida, Georgia & Alabama in 2017 covering 4,382,656 acres.
      California only had 428 prescribed fires covering 49,522 acres!
      Number of fires and acres burned due to U.S. prescribed fires in 2017, by state

      Prescribed Fires & Acres Burnt
      Florida 86,115 prescribed fires over 2,182,980 acres
      Georgia: 83,588 prescribed fires over 1,255,221 acres
      Alabama 13,157 prescribed fires over 944,455 acres
      California ONLY 428 prescribed fires over 49,522 acres


  2. I heard on the TV yesterday that something like 17 of the last 21 or so major forest fires in California were blamed on the power company. It makes one wonder whether they are having problems keeping their right-of-ways cleared of trees and brush. In California it would not surprise me if the environmentalists are preventing them from using Roundup and the tree-huggers preventing them from taking out trees that are too close to the lines. It ain’t pretty but at least here in West Virginia the local power company hires out that job. We’ve only been without power for more than a couple minute (during switch-overs) two times since we moved up here 20 years ago. The first was for 6 hours when a car took out a pole in a snow storm, and the second when a tree fell on a final feeder line at a neighbor’s house taking out the pole, transformer and circuit breakers. The latter was actually the neighbors fault since customers are responsible for clearing the line from the last transformer to the house. The feds only control about 45% of the California forests but the news keeps talking about how the Forest service is restricted from thinning. That won’t explain how the fires got started in the first place.

  3. You are right, Kip. The left is so blinded by hate they can’t approach any story without focusing on the Trump Derangement angle. Here´s a thought, if California had put tax subsidies into power-line modernization´, instead of bird choppers and cookers, maybe some of this could be avoided. Only some avoided though, because some amount of fire is normal and recurring.

  4. I love how sensibly this article is written. I especially like the clarification that we are all implicated in the problem by our choices of where we choose to build our homes. I am personally guilty on multiple counts. I am currently building one on a hillside overlooking the South San Gabriel River in Texas with a wet weather creek that appears under my back patio during heavy rains. The task has required many hours of engineering to insure long term stability. Still…a bit risky. But darn it…so beautiful.

    • Stacy ==> Yes, that’s the human side of it — we just sometimes can’t resist the awe-inspiring beauty of some building sites.

      My wife and I lived on our sailboat in the hurricane-prone northern Caribbean for almost 15 years … every hurricane season was a decision point — what to do this year? some years we ran to Florida (and the relative safety of modern marinas a bit inland) , some years we stayed and ran to the mangroves when storms threatened. The only time we got really hit was on a year we ran to North Carolina — took a direct eye of the hurricane hit from Hurricane Irene in 2011.

      We all judge our desires, our values, etc against the risks….

      • Six years in the north-west Caribbean… We almost got caught once tied up deep in the mangrove of Guanaja but luckily it passed by on the north side, taking out a tall ship that had been ordered to run for Belize. Several years we just headed up the Rio Dulce river in Guatemala. While spending hurricane season safe and sound there you could still run out to Belize for a few days before heading back upriver to avoid bad weather.

  5. From the article: “The Times apparently feels compelled to denigrate the sitting President at every opportunity.”

    No doubt about it.

    It doesn’t matter what Trump does or says, it will be portrayed in the worst light possible by the New York Times and all the rest of the Leftwing Media. The truth in not in them, when it comes to the political opposition and that goes double for Trump because he fights back against their lies and he has been spectacularly successful at dismantling the Leftwing national agenda. They rightfully see him as their political enemy and attack him relentlessly.

    And with Trump their criticism and lies are just like water off a duck’s back, he just keeps on forging ahead and making progress while slapping down their lies.

    The Left sees six more years of this in their future and they are terrified that their agenda is being superseded by common-sense conservatism.

    • I’ve read that over 90% of the Trump’s coverage is negative.
      On the other hand comedians explained that the reason they never did jokes about Obama was because he never did anything wrong.

  6. Is it not the case that ‘privately’ managed forests are less often the site of devastating fires, due to their being ‘worked’ i.e. logged and cleaned up?

    • Bob==> I don’t know — if you have a source to check — let us know — much of Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina is covered with tree farms (huge areas) planted in fast growing pines — don’t know what their record is for fire.

      The Northwest has a lot of timber land too.

      These huge tree farms are generally clear-cut, section at a time, and replanted within a year (sometimes months). In North Carolina, I have seen them clear-cut 40 acres, push the stumps and treetops into burn pile and burn that, and re=plant all with a few weeks.

    • Bob,

      Fires are less likely to get started on privately managed forest due to how they are managed. That said, once a fire gets rolling it can’t tell the difference between private, state or federally managed forests. One treetop pretty much looks just the same as the another at that point.

      Quick example of this was the Black Crater fire outside of Sisters, OR a while back (that fire chased my parents and I out of the woods). We were camping right at the edge of the federal/private land interface and trail riding with horses in both. There was acre after acre of beetle killed trees on federal land with nary a one to be seen on privately held land. Thunderstorm passed through with lightening sparking a fire in the heavily fuel loaded beetle kill area which then spread onto private lands. Would that fire have started anyway if the beetle kill had taken care of? We’ll never know but the fire did start in the beetle kill area and all that dead/dried timber sure makes good kindling.

      As soon as the fire was out the privately held land owners cleared out all the fire killed trees and replanted. Feds didn’t touched their burn area, it was being allowed to “naturally” recover which means more fuel load for the next fire…There was another area not that far away that also burned, in that one they not only didn’t remove the fire killed trees they built an overlook area beside the highway so tourist can stop to look at the devastation and watch nature recover. I’m sure in a few more years it will be used as a staging area for the next fire that rips through there.

        • Not necessarily. Heavy fuel loading on the ground and with ladder fuels is a recipe for disaster, but large, stand replacing fires also occur in stands that are over dense with live trees, on steep slopes, and driven by winds. Fuel moisture is also very critical. Heavy fuel loading in June is not much of a problem, but come July-September, fire danger increases steadily during the typically hot, dry summers with long days.

        • Not necessarily. Heavy fuels, both on the ground and ladder type, are a recipe for disaster. However, large stand replacing fires also occur in overly dense stands of live trees, when live fuel moisture is low, on steep slopes, and when high and shifting winds occur. Dead fuel moisture is also important. Areas with high fuel loads can’t be burned, even with napalm, in May-June, but the fire danger increases steadily in July-August in typically hot, dry conditions, with long days.

  7. Journalists, academics, and bureaucrats employ euphemisms to misinform and mislead. It has always been so.

  8. Most of the “forests” and other not actively cultivated areas in California are naturally fire-adapted. Some of the trees are either fire tolerant, like redwoods, or require fire to germinate, like some pines. Some areas, like the lower foothills of the Northern Sierras, would be grasslands with scattered large oaks if the fire pattern, or grazing, was maintained.
    Where it gets bad is where people try to “keep it natural”, and treat California woodlands as if they were Northeast forests, with a totally different rain pattern and different species of trees.

    • Tom ==> See the maps and satellite photos in the essay. The pine forest rolls right down slope through Paradise and almost to Chico. The area right around Chico is typical California Central Valley — wildgrass fields, interspersed with mission oaks etc. especially where livestock is grazed. The rest is planted in crops and orchards….

    • Tom, before the Europeans arrived in California the indigenous people use to burn the oak forests to clear the underbrush and make it easier for them to harvest acorns. I would guess that with their several thousand years experience they had developed a rather large pool of knowledge that has been totally lost today. I doubt they burned down their villages many times before learning to avoid it.

      • Joe Crawford 11-17-2018. Yes. When immigrants from the east first witnessed these California foothill acorn groves, the less than knowledgeable witnesses called these groves as a ‘parks’. I lived in a portion of one of these parks-grove 100+ years after the Maidu were forced out.

  9. If you control the language, you control the argument
    If you control the argument, you control information
    If you control information, you control history
    If you control history, you control the past
    He who controls the past controls the future.” – Big Brother, 1984

    We used to call them forest fires, now they use the scarier term “wild fire”

    • Steve ==> Wildfire has been in use in the English language a long time — my generation (and President Trump’s) is more used to the phrase “forest fire” — we heard it a few million times in the exhortation “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!”

      • Kip

        see drednicolson November 17, 2018 at 5:22 pm below

        He’s right, the slogan has been changed from Forest Fires to Wild Fires.

        • Steve ==> Not for me — it will always be “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” I won’t give up my version of Smokey the Bear! I won’t!……

  10. This reminds me of how much the human animal is like some local critters which build homes nearby. Every spring I find a vole’s nest tucked nicely in my bbq. Of course, the bbq has seen no fire over the winter and early spring, but it will come. Or the birds which build nests in the rain gutter or downspout. At least these critters have a valid excuse for choosing where to build, people building in fire prone or flood prone areas have fewer excuses.

    • What puzzles me is why any insurance company would insure the homes and business in these fire prone areas. I couldn’t get a loan for my place without insurance.

  11. Does the publishing of an article so counter to common sense indicate that the reporters are this challenged, or are they quite aware of the foolishness of their case, but suspect their readers are to stupid to recognize it? I suspect the latter and wonder if someday the readership will awaken to the fact.

    • Randy ==> My opinion on it is that the paper, the NY Times, has what is called an “Editorial Narrative” which defines how stories about “xxxx” are to be written and what “angle” or “slant” they are required to have.

      In the first article in question in the essay, there is a story about the President — the Times’ Editorial Narrative on “President stories” is something like: 1) he is wrong about the facts, 2) he is probably lying, 3) he is trying to fool the public with his “alternative facts”–which are to be declared false regardless of the truth. It also is a Climate Change story, which has an Editorial Narrative: if something bad has happened, it is because of Climate Change and the President and the Republicans are causing it. It is also an Environmental story which carries an Editorial Narrative of “it is bad, really bad, and getting worse, because of humans, especially the President and the Republicans.”

      See my essay on Editorial Narratives in Science.

    • I think they live so far inside their Blue Bubble that they literally only talk to each other–of like mind. As with The Guardian, their mirror-image across the pond, their job is to pound The Narrative. Context, facts, and counter-arguments are not what they’re being paid to print.

      One reason why many people now dismiss BOTH of these papers as “reliable sources.”

    • I was taking some coursework on detecting deception and other social engineering topics. One of the fundamentals in this field is to observe baseline behavior and look for clusters of anomalies that vary from this baseline.

      Which got me to thinking. What if this generation was fed from birth a constant diet of of propaganda, altered narratives and revised history? What would their baseline be? The Millennials grew up under the cloud of AGW and were taught nothing but that. To them, the baseline is AGW.

      In fact, if lies and propaganda are the baseline and are characterized as “truth”, despite the imposition of post-modernistic thinking, then it would seem that hanging around honest people would create “clusters” of deviation from the baseline, and to the observer would be an anomaly and thus not truth.

  12. Kip, you ( LOL ) missed the forest for the trees!!!

    President Comb-over said, ” all because of gross mismanagement of the forests.”

    He’s unaware of the root cause of “all” of this….drought. Good reason to take a pot shot.

    • Steve ==> Respectfully,, you simply have the facts wrong. The west slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains is Koppen-Geiger climate region Csa and Csb — which is “warm temperate with dry hot (or warm) summers” — this means it is always fire season in these areas in the Fall. Paradise climate history shows that some Novembers are extremely dry (basically zero rain) and others get a little early winter rain.

      Less rain means incrementally more fire risk — but these mostly pine forests are always up for a good fire in the autumn regardless “drought” declarations.

      It has been a dry November in the region this year.

      • Thank you Kip for agreeing with me that President Comb-over is wrong when he blames “gross mismanagement of the forests.”

        • Steve ==> Well, it’s not quite that simple. The fire management practices of the last 50 years have led to massive build-ups of fuel in the coniferous forests of the West — that’s the mismanagement part. It is perfectly true, fully acknowledged by fire experts including CalFire. We can’t go back and “undo” that — the fuel is there and only time will fix it — either a fire will sweep through and burn it up, or it will decay and turn to soil — unfortunately, they only real effective, long-term solution is to let it burn.

          Now that we have so many homes and Walmarts and Burger Kings built in snuggled up to the trees, letting it burn means big losses, so we still fight the fires to save the infrastructure.

        • President Comb-over?
          And people wonder why you have no interest in the facts of the case.
          Another case of TDS.

      • Thanks for the site information Kip. I have been searching the news for the most basic information like tree species burning, management history, fire return interval etc. As with everything the MSM touch, the news reports are devoid of information that would allow a person to understand the circumstances that led to this. Those of us who live in an urban interface would like to know relevant details.

      • Kip, I totally get that the California climate (I’m not saying it is human-made or natural here) is what makes the state prone to fires.

        But is does seem that this would spur the state and the U.S. Forest Service to do more management of the forests. Money is short, so it seems enlisting logging companies to do a lot of work in exchange for logging rights in agreed areas, that would become fire breaks and roads, is sensible.

        Even if the logging did not reduce the number of fires, it would make fighting them easier. The roads and fire breaks would be invaluable once a fire started.

    • Without fuel to burn it doesn’t matter how dry it gets. The Indians understood this and adapted. Modern Californians want to have their cake and eat it too, i.e., a paradise with only good and no perceived bad. The Camp Fire is a parable for that mindset. Comply with what nature demands (e.g., minimize the fuel load) or she will burn down your Paradise.

      • icisil ==> Unfortunately, it is apparent from the aftermath photos of the Paradise fire that once the firestorm got to the more built-up sections, it was the buildings that supplied the fuel — the roofs and walls were not fire-proof, inflammable materials. Houses burned while leaving standing living trees around them.

        • The logical solution is to harden buildings against wildfires (both flying embers and radiant heat) and establish buffer areas so that large, hot fires can’t get close enough to combust buildings from a distance.

        • The problem is that when the trees are too close to the building, the radiant heat is enough to catch the house on fire, even if the outside is completely non-flammable.

          When I lived in Tampa, a multi-story apartment complex that was under construction caught fire.

          Across the street was a post office with a metal roof and stucco exterior. It was separated from the fire by two parking lots and a 4 lane divided highway.
          It caught fire and burned to the ground.

    • There’s nothing unusual about the recent drought.
      However had there not been gross mismanagement of the forests, there would have been a lot less fuel to burn.
      Your attempt to blame Trump is amusing and inaccurate.

    • Heins,

      It seems that you have what Kip characterized as an “Editorial Narrative.” Yes, California recently experienced an extended drought, but that drought was broken last Winter. Abundant Winter and Spring rains actually make the fire risk greater.

      Basically, California sees little to no rain from late-April to early-November. Temperatures in the Sacramento/Central Valley are commonly over 100 (with very low humidity) by July 4th, with some of the hottest areas around Chico and Red Bluff. Those kinds of temperatures persist through October. It only takes a few days of that kind of heat to completely desiccate the senescent vegetation and turn it into highly flammable fuel. It happens every Summer! Drought may kill some trees, but that wasn’t the issue in the Paradise fire.

      Did you used to write for the Huffington Post or the New York Times?

    • Steve, It’s always drought in California because the rain only comes in the winter. The rest of the year is very dry – what we called a Mediterranean climate. There is a drought every summer and fall. Then the Santa Ana winds come or whatever they call them north of where I lived, and the fires get fanned into uncontrollable conflagrations. There was no preventative burns to reduce the scrub, and any naturally or man-caused fire was extinguished before it could do the job. The brush load on the hills is now much higher than it used to be before we kept putting out the small fires. Therefore, when a fire gets started that we can’t put out quickly due to the winds, it becomes very large and destructive. I call it gross mismanagement. One side cause is letting people build in areas that should have proscribed burns. Once the houses are there, no one wants to authorize a burn because if there is property damage, people sue.

  13. Just like living on the beach in Indonesia, lovely setting, until a tsunami hits without early warning.

  14. Kip,

    Great essay and presentation!

    You really dropped the hammer on the NYT and Kendra Pierre-Louis. I hope she and the editors read it as it will set their pants on fire even again though they’ve already got the ‘pants on fire’ award.

    Truth bombs are difficult to dodge and you dropped a big one this time. I hope this will get published widely to put the record straight. Heads exploding all around!

    Maybe an op-ed with a link here @ WUWT for the graphics if published in paper edition.

  15. “The root cause of all this is drought”? Really? That has never happened before? Forest management includes managing for all eventualities. And drought is included. And for the record, when fires burn on federal land, the tree-huggers holler that the land must be left “natural”. Can’t replant. The property line between private and federal land is very apparent after a fire. Private land is usually replanted. Presuming that is what is desired. And also, without adequate ground cover, the hills are subject to rapid erosion.

  16. If a town were to clearcut a fire access road /fire beak (30 ft wide?) around the entire town along it’s boundary AND a 15 ft clearing along each side of the exit roads, they could keep their trees close to the homes for “decoration” and still be a little safer ?? .. IMHO.

  17. Twitter limit is no longer 140 characters. I don’t know the new limit as I left twitter when I learned that conservatives were being deverified.
    I am on Gab now (@protonice) 🙂

  18. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Living in a treed landscape is wonderful. Completely natural forests are wonderful. The two don’t mix.

    If people are going to live in the woods, we have to manage the woods properly.

    The other thing is building codes. There is a wonderful magazine called Fine Homebuilding. Over the years it has covered the aftermath of disasters with regard to which houses survived and which didn’t. Here’s an article that covers the 1993 Laguna Beach fire storm. Fire resistant architecture isn’t a mystery. I would never suggest hunkering down in your house if a forest fire is coming. I would evacuate early and far. Having a fire resistant house would mean that I would have a much better chance of not losing it.

    Looking at the pictures above, we see generous overhangs on the Burger King. That’s a big no no because overhangs trap heat. I’m guessing that Burger King also missed lots of other details.

    We have to treat the inhabited woods as human habitation and we have to treat the buildings built in the woods as if they are built in a fire area. Any other approach is literally crazy. /rant

  19. “Technically, Kendra “Gloom is my Beat” tells us, it’s not a forest fire — it is a “wildland-urban interface” fire. We can see that this is not forest:”

    That is not nit-picking. That is a complete falsehood.

    Basically the gloomy abyss of a reporter builds it’s argument from ignorance; i.e. ‘Argumentum ad Ignorantiam’; marking Kendra as a bubble raised fool.

    NYT is nit-picking when they expect any President to tweet expansive explanations in 160 byte messages.
    Which again, identifies the nit-pickers as utter fools.

  20. The frequency of such massive fire events is obviously well documented for the most recent historical period, and I assume that the colonial archives in Seville will have information on the Spanish period. For a longer time scale something occurred to me watching an earlier post which showed the smoke and ash reaching the sea.
    Given that many of these destructive events are driven by hot dry easterlies , propelling the ash towards the ocean , is it possible , by coring the off shore sea bottom to detect layers of ash , and of course date them by the C14 in the ash layer . Or do the tides simply remove all the evidence, unlike in the case of volcanic ash layers which are less soluble or less fine.

  21. [Don’t they have real live Editors any more? — guys and gals with a lifetime of experience and a cigar or cigarette holder stuck in the side of their mouth — real life Perry Whites — who have seen it all and are tired of Cub Reporters making the paper look stupid?]

    Those guys got forced out at the beginning of the paper’s hard $ times and were replaced by fresh college grad reporters for less than half of their total compensation packages, I’m sure. Those who’s incompetence propelled them to top positions at the NYT seem to feel editors can be replaced with spell-check

    • G Franke ==> Great link == we see the Humboldt Fire that burned 70+ homes in 2008 in southern Paradise.

  22. Just because a lot of forest land in CA is managed by the Feds, is not proof that this fire started in those lands.
    In fact this fire did not start in federally managed lands.
    What is it about liberal environmentalists and their inability to do even simple logic?

    • PS, until a few decades ago, federal wild land management procedures were as bad as CA’s. The consequences of that mismanagement are still being felt.

    • Mark ==> The fire is believed to have started near Pulga which is in the Plumas National Forest. When CalFire is done with the investigation, we will have information on the location more precisely.

  23. Thanks Kip. Nicely done.

    We live in the Wooo-e — about 3 miles from a defined forest.
    Many years ago ( ~100) to about 40 years ago, cattle and sheep kept the plants reduced and the woody parts broken and crushed. This does not prevent fires but does reduce the severity. Enough houses have been built that the sheep are gone; some cattle and horse pasture remain. We have had big fast fires in the county and all are aware of the danger. “Firewise” and Fire-Adapted Community programs are encouraged.
    We had several days of clearing and chipping on our place via a program funded by the State of Washington’s Dept. of Ecology and run through our County Conservation District. I’m still working on that issue. We need to do more. It takes time and money.
    You mention types of siding. Ours is T1-11, from the early 1980s. It needs to be covered, but the good choices are expensive. Fiber cement composition { Class 1(A) fire/flame spread rating } is a good choice, pricey, and best done by pros. A previous owner had a large shed built just 6 feet from the house. Both should get new siding. $$$$
    The reality is that making older existing homes safer is not happening rapidly, or not happening at all. New construction can be done better.

    Despite what land managers do, or what the utility company does, this issue is not going away.

    • John ==> Yes — fire-proof roofing and siding must be mandatory for all new construction in fire-risk areas.

      Refitting is always the big problem.

  24. Everybody except NYT knows what is meant by ‘forest fire’. But that term is somewhat misleading. Look at photos taken after a ‘forest fire’. Often the trees still look good as new but the houses are gone. California is mostly three things, roughly categorized as forest, grassland, and buildings. They all burn, especially the near ground layer. Cliff Mass calls grass grassoline. It should not come as a surprise that buildings burn. Every major city has had its historical famous fire. Does anyone remember the Three Little Pigs?

    Fires are natural to California. Maybe some more thought should be given to surviving and escaping them.

  25. The NY Times is obsessed with the President — it cannot report anything without taking a pot shot at him

    Just exactly like the BBC.
    So (modern day**) childish and pathetic

    ** Modern day because Neanderthal kids wouldn’t have behaved like that – they were fed on breast milk while building their their brains in the 30 months post-partum.
    Or, kids in 536AD for that matter. Or prior to (say) a century ago.
    Maybe things were not just Quite As Bad as some peeps want to make out.

    And here’s The Tangent:
    It would seem that the ‘Sat Fat Cognoscenti’ no longer refer to Vegetable Oil as ‘Vegetable Oil’
    The scientific and nutritionally correct term is now= Rancid Oil
    Yup, I’ll go with that

  26. Looking at the photos of the church and the McDonalds; I’m not seeing that they cleared the “Defensible space” around those buildings that might have protected them in the wildfires. I understand; people like to live near trees, and if you clear defensible space around buildings, you will eliminate the trees.

    I read an article about a guy near Paradise who had, pretty much, done that. Cleared the brush, installed an above-ground pool for water storage, and had a big pump. And when the fire approached, he wet everything down and fought the fire, and saved his house.

    I live in the Sacramento suburbs, and frankly it’s more urban than”sub”. But if I lived in the foothills, you can bet that there would be no brush and no dead or dying trees within 100 feet of my house.

    • Ken ==> Yes — clearing around the buildings — certainly removing the pines and their debris — is absolutely essential.

      In my area, we have people doing exactly the same in woods full of yellow pine — luckily it is very humid here and we seldom see big fires.

  27. As with others – excellent Kip.

    I’d like to add, here’s a tweet from Pres Trump that our national mainstream media was not so quick to share with the public:

    TRUMP: More than 4,000 are fighting the Camp and Woolsey Fires in California that have burned over 170,000 acres. Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all.
    Nov 10, 2010

    This is their standard practice – report on nothing that makes Trump look like who he actually is.

  28. Wait, if the fire wasn’t in a federal forest as the Times claims:

    Rather, the Camp and Woolsey fires, which are ripping through Northern and Southern California, began in areas known as the wildland-urban interface: places where communities are close to undeveloped areas, making it easier for fire to move from forests or grasslands into neighborhoods.”

    THEN IT WASN’T THE FAULT OF THE FEDS! They can’t have it both ways.

    If the land was California’s then it’s on their dime.

    Who ever wrote this tripe should sue their journalist schools for malpractice since they obviously came out with a worthless degree.

    • Bear ==> It turns out that the Camp Fire DID start in the Plumas National Forest, up near Pulga. There is one image with the origin marked as a little red circle.

      Smokey The Bear has told my entire generation at least that “ONLY YOU can prevent Forest Fires!” he says it in every national forest, park, and monument, even in the desert.

      • Yes, I saw that you pointed that out. It was the inconsistency of the writer that I was annoyed with.

        The problem is that the writer claimed it wasn’t a forest fire (his statement not mine). If it wasn’t a forest fire it had nothing to do with whether the land was a private, state or federal forest. Therefore, it falls under California land management of the so called wildlands, so where is the Times condemnation of Jerry Brown and his government? They want to beat up on Trump for using the “wrong term” (forest) for what the bureaucrats call wildlands. It’s also typical bureaucratic wordplay. Let’s call it something other than a forest even though it a dense area of trees so it can’t be a forest fire.

        Oh, and Smokey’s unintended consequence is the overgrowth of forests by preventing fires which took the forestry service a long time to figure out.

  29. I was born in Los Angeles and have lived in SoCal my whole life. The area burns significantly every 10 years or so. I remember as a child when my family took a drive through the devastation wrought by the Bel Air fire of 1961 (the one last year was caused by a homeless encampment – LAPD is under orders not to disturb the homeless regardless of what they may be doing illegally, like open fires)

    This was an excellent review but a few extra things. Deliberately poor management of our Forests, et al, is a feature, not a bug. The greens in this state have undue influence in Sacramento. They want anything that stifles or discourages human development. Too much of our forest land is sick – overcrowded with diseased and dying trees and undergrowth. Limited logging? Controlled burns? OHNOES!!!

    An aside — fire resistant roofing and siding won’t make a lick of difference if flying embers are sucking into the attic space of a home via soffits. This is why you’ll see in many fires a kind of “hop-scotch” pattern of one house burned to the ground while the next one is barely scorched. Watch video of a house at the edge of these wildfires go up and you see it not catching fire ON the roof but flames first coming out of the attic area under the eaves.

    • Darleen ==> You make very good points. I’ll check out the soffit thingy.

      I was born downtown LA in the old California Hospital, grew up in what is now Slauson Village — near W Slauson Ave and Van Ness Ave. Moved around 7 years old to Gardena, one block south of El Segundo, also at Van Ness Ave (my Dad wasn’t very inventive when looking for a new house, he drove down Van Ness looking for likely neighborhoods!) Went to George Washington High School on the western edge of Watts.

      • Darleen, thanks for bring this up again.
        I’ve mentioned soffits several times in the past 3 years.
        The screened openings often have 1/2 in mesh, I think.
        One can simply tack a smaller mesh on the outside — a great architectural touch!
        Or one can take the old ones out — often difficult — and put in new ones.
        Don’t forget to clean the mounds of leaves from in front of the garage door where your $600 worth of “stuff” is, while your $40,000 auto is parked outside.
        Clean out under your deck and replace firewood and other stuff with gravel.
        Check with your local fire crew for more ideas.

      • Hi Kip,

        I was born at St Vincent’s hospital. Grew up until my teens in Granada Hills (couple of fire scares there!) then went to high school in the OC (Sonora HS).

  30. “Where are the codes requiring sensible set-backs from highly flammable local vegetation? And codes specifying non-flammable siding and roofing? ”

    These were among the many things that changed after the devastating 2009 fires in Australia. There are working models out there if they care to look and can get over the not invented here syndrome, and of course the its all the climates fault syndrome.

  31. Reminds me of the Marysville fire disaster in Victoria a few years ago. The local council made mandatory a WUI which added to the eventual deaths in the bushfire that ravaged the area, killing a total of 12.

    As I recall, there was one individual who defied the requirement to surround his home with trees and instead cut them all down. He was fined $100,000 by the council. I also believe his was one of the few structures standing following the fire.

    • SMS ==> Australia, yes, I remember reading about that.

      Set back from trees and brush are an important first defense from forest (or wild…) fires.

    • I remember a story from awhile back about a California community that was destroyed by a brushfire because they were not allowed to plow firebreaks due to some protected field mouse that lived in the area. Fire took out the homes but managed to barbecue the mice at the same time. Result: no mice protected and a whole neighborhood destroyed.

    • Marysville lost 34 people in 2009 and the total number lost during Black Saturday was 173.
      What horrifies me is that the roadsides, the ‘escape’ routes, are now full of scrubby, shrubby growth of fire-prone natives again, all ready for the next time. My husband and I were commenting on just that, just this morning, as we drove to Marysville on the Maroondah Highway. We have been told, by local friends, that this highway was clear of such growth many years ago, with tall, clean-trunked trees. It’s been a fire-hazard ever since we first moved to the area, back in 1990.
      We have built a fire-resistent house since moving back from the UK but I think that nothing survives a really bad firestorm. There are grassed areas around the house, deciduous trees and orchards, but also some conifers ( an Aleppo Pine and Deodar Cedar). However, we worry about the massive River Red Gums along the roadside but try to keep the grass verge under them well mown.
      It isn’t in the nature of this life on Earth that we can ever be completely free of danger but we can try to do what is sensible and feasible to mitigate problems.

  32. Time for a Conspiracy since the Military was testing Laser Weapons in an unknown town and from an unknown ship.

    Forest Fires? That would mean you know a Forest was on fire! But no it was Cars that were on Fire and barely any trees caught fire. It looks to me like a Beam of energy swept through melted things.
    I don’t think you have scene the actual pictures. Someone made a video of what was happening.

    Fires wouldn’t ignore the trees and melt the cars in the street then burn down and melt buildings and the ground.

  33. Well, they successfully mired San Onofre power plant with regulations and red tape… that’s 2000+ MW of local capacity that has to be replaces with power brought in off the interconnects.

  34. A summary of key points from https://www.redding.com/story/news/2018/11/11/trump-blames-state-fires-but-many-worst-federal-land/1971196002/ :
    — A USA TODAY Network review shows many of the worst fires in California have burned largely on federal land.
    — The largest blaze in state history, the 410,200-acre Ranch Fire, this past summer burned on large swaths of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in Mendocino and nearby counties north of San Francisco.
    — Six of California’s 16 most destructive wildfires in the past 25 years — in terms of structures destroyed — occurred on federal lands, according to Cal Fire records.
    — In Shasta County, last summer’s 229,650-acre Carr Fire started on National Park Service lands before spreading to private property and eventually into the city of Redding.
    — While the largest fires happened predominantly on federal lands, the majority of the most destructive fires burned across private land, destroying homes and businesses, according to state and federal records.
    — It is not surprising that most of the large fires happen on federal land, considering that 60 percent of California land area is under some type of federal land management.

    So, yes, President Trump was way off base in implying (most) blame on the State of California for forest mismanagement leading to wildfires. The US Federal government is likely the more culpable party.

  35. I lived about 50 miles from Paradise for 30 years and visited a friend there often.
    The two photos of businesses are in cleared area. There is a lot of very overgrown acreage in and around the town. Some vacant and some with homes.

  36. Kip,

    According to the Cal Fire incident report at 8:00 p.m. on 11/8, the location is at the intersection of Pulga Road and Camp Creek Road.
    http://cdfdata.fire.ca.gov/pub/cdf/images/incidentfile2277_4157.pdf A satellite image of that area suggests the area is a mix of shrubs/early forest succession and grass interspersed with mature trees. It looks to me like much of it has been clear-cut within the last decade; other areas look like they’ve been selectively logged or thinned. Patches of downed deadwood are here and there (typical after a forestry operation), along with a few bits of standing deadwood. At any rate, it’s clear this isn’t contiguous forest, and that it’s been heavily managed. Some might argue that ALL downed wood should have been burned, but the fact that it’s very patchy suggests it wasn’t a major factor in the spread of the fire, and having at least some dead wood is essential for the health of the ecosystem. (This is not an environmentalist perspective, but one of forest management.)

    National Forests are often not entirely forest. This is due to natural mix of vegetation types as well as the fact that it is common for large areas to be clear cut and remain in a deforested state for years. Green on a map does not always reflect the mix of vegetation types.

    The intersection the roads near the fire’s origin is in a wide power line corridor. Wikipedia states that firefighters were first dispatched to a “brush fire under Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) power lines near Poe Dam on the Feather River.”

    Most of the area between the site of origin and Paradise is not forest. So it is unclear how better forest management would have protected the town.

    The NYT article wasn’t entirely correct (the Camp Fire didn’t start at the urban-wildland interface), but neither is your “fact-check.”

    To me this is an excellent example of the urban-wildland interface becoming an area of wildfire risk. As you point out, Paradise is spread out into forested areas. It is not clear to me that better forest management would have saved the town, but it’s possible that better planning and construction/retrofitting might have made a difference.

    As you suggest, it is complex. Apart from the above, ignition source seems to be an ongoing issue. And while climate change is not necessarily a factor, it can’t be ruled out. (I’m aware of arguments and evidence on both sides.)

    “In the case of the Camp Fire, they have been super-charged by decades of misguided forest management policies that have left many western forests with very high fuel loads — the result of policies that called for quick response suppression of every fire instead of letting the natural succession of fire and recovery take place.”

    How exactly has this been the case in the Camp Fire?

    In many areas these days, “let it burn” is simply not an option. There are so many towns, residences, campgrounds and trails scattered through forested/vegetated areas that to let wildfires burn could put lives and homes at risk. The solution is not so straightforward.

    Then there are the immense areas of forest that have been killed by insects, build-up of dead wood is not simply the result of poor management or fire suppression. Drought, too, can lead to tree/shrub death directly or through susceptibility to disease and insects. Such problems are potentially influenced by climate change. It’s important to realize that even if one doesn’t believe this is the case so far, this is a good example of the possible future problems.

    “Who would have imagined that the complex problem of California wildfires could actually be ‘more complicated’ than the President could communicate in 140 characters?”

    It’s not a matter of space. Trump chose to blame California’s forest management as the SOLE cause of deadly wildfires. Who is really taking the “pot shots” here?

    • Kristi ==> It is the case for the camp fire as cknowledged by CalFire, The area between the orign and Paradise has not burned in recent yeears (see maps of hisotrical fires in California linked in comment), so when the winds kicked up to 40-50 mph, it turned the interceding forest (with its high fuel lod) inti a rel live Fire Storm that swept into Paradise,,,,

      The Pine Beetle is not active in the Central Valley of California.

      Fires in California are a natural result of the enironment and its climate — but they are little changed from a historic perspective,

      The President didn’t make any statement s to exclusivity of cause.

      My opinions are summarized in the Fact-check Wrap Up.

      • Kip,

        ” it turned the interceding forest (with its high fuel lod)”

        WHAT INTERCEDING FOREST? Obviously you looked at the satellite photos, but I guess not close enough. Almost the only forest is a “buffer” zone around the Paradise! The entire area east of there until hwy 70 has been massively clear-cut. You can see the skid tracks. In large areas, the only trees left standing are dead. The Camp Fire was not a forest fire it got to the couple thousand feet around Paradise. You are just wrong! Look at it!

        You want to tell me that’s forest?

        I wrote a manual for foresters for the MN DNR. I know a clear-cut when I see it.

        “The President didn’t make any statement s to exclusivity of cause.”

        “There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly fires…except that management is so poor.”

        • Kristi ==> If you had ever been to California, and ever seen the actual environmental conditions there, had ever been there in the autumn after a dry hot summer, ever smelled the pine sap in the air almost thick enough by noon to start a barbecue, you would have some idea how this fire starts in Pulga and gets blown by high winds down to Paradise arriving as a full blown firestorm visible from space and soaring a thousand feet high.

          Arguing from ignorance is NOT a strong position. You can not dispute things that have already happened. Didn’t you see the live footage of the fire as it approached Paradise? You don’t get flames that high and hot from a grass or brush fire.

          Please….research that actually happened, not hypothetical “I think that looking at the satellite images there’s no enough stuff to burn”. Tell that to the firestorm victims.

          Did you donate to the Relief Fund? Or do you just want to argue about how little the fire was because it “wasn’t a forest”?

          • Kip,

            You asked if I lived in CA, not if I’d been there. I have. Several times. I know the conditions.

            You chose to “fact-check” a story, and insulted the writer for, among other things, saying it wasn’t a forest fire. You belabored the point:

            “The Camp Fire, which destroyed Paradise, is known to have started near Pulga, which is east and a little north of Paradise, in the Plumas National Forest. So, the fire starts in a forest — a National Forest …After insisting that the Camp Fire was not in a forest (and incorrectly claiming that the fire did not start in a forest — it did)… if one is going to insist that it was not a forest fire and did not happen in a forest…

            “That’s my fact-check of the NY Times’ failed fact-check.

            “My question? Has the NY Times editorial staff lost its collective mind altogether?”

            I am simply saying that if you are going to fact-check someone else’s story, you should get your own facts right.

            The fire most likely started under power lines in wide a right-of-way which is not forested. It traveled over land that was not forested. It reached the area around Paradise, which is forested.

            You said that I said, “I think that looking at the satellite images there’s no enough stuff to burn”

            That’s two mistakes you made in one comment!

            You don’t think a hot fire can move through a clear-cut area? I even said that there were patches of downed dead wood, as well as standing dead wood, in the cleared areas. (I realize now that there could be more dead wood than I could see in areas that were beginning to regrow.) In mature coniferous forest there’s may be less flammable material at ground level than in an area that was cleared 5 or 10 years ago. Many post-Camp Fire photos show trees with an intact canopy.

            “Studies show that removing trees, either for commercial logging or as a fire-prevention strategy, can actually make fires more intense, leading to further destruction for both humans and wildlife. For one, the debris that these cuts leave behind can set off massive fires, according to Char Miller, a professor of environmental analysis at Pomona College and an expert on wildfire policy.”

            The forest around Paradise hadn’t burned recently, as you pointed out. It could have had a lot of fuel on the ground. Perhaps even more important, there is more understory growth along forest edges, which would be the typical case in the urban-wildland interface. Then there’s dead and dry vegetation due to drought (there’s no reason at all to say this had nothing to do with climate change, as many have argued – but that’s another topic).

            On the outskirts of Paradise you can see mixtures of scrub, intact forest and thinned forest, more like open woodland.

            So was this a forest fire? As a whole, no. Some forest burned, yes, but it didn’t start in forest nor did it sweep through forest from there on its way to Paradise. To adamantly correct a story as you did, and insult the writer while you’re at it, you should get your facts straight. That’s all I’m saying. There’s nothing hypothetical about it.

          • Kristi ==> Well, one things for sure, you never give up — seldom right, but you don’t give up.

            The fire started in the Plumas National Forest. I can’t change the facts — and any fussing about “forest” fire and “some other kind of new-aged, current lingo, name” for a fire of this Nature is just silly nit-picking about a horrendous disaster — which was the point of that part of the essay. (I hate it when I give in and actually tell you what the essay was about — I keep hoping you will figure it out for yourself — nearly everyone else gets it on the first reading.)

          • Kip,

            You don’t get it. The fact that it started in a national forest is irrelevant – that doesn’t mean it started in forest. YOU are the one that insisted the NYT writer was wrong. She wasn’t.

    • Why do people think a warmer climate is drier? It isn’t. Warmer climate periods are wetter. It is cool climate periods that are dry and result in desert expansion. I think it probably has to do with people’s thoughts that “deserts are hot, so warmer temperatures must make more deserts” but the opposite is true.

      • crosspatch,

        As I understand it, the effects are regional. It probably depends, too, on the relative terms “warmer,” “cooler,” “drier” and “wetter.” We are not talking glacial and interglacial periods here – but maybe you weren’t either.

        Apart from that, temperature has a marked effect on microclimates. Warmer temperatures mean greater plant transpiration rates and more soil moisture loss. Even with no change in precipitation, this can have an effect on plant moisture content status.

        …I just ran across this interesting page.
        I happened to be looking at 2015. “In California, May 2015 and December and the summer months of 2014 were wetter than normal across much of the state, but the last 12 months still ranked as the 29th driest June-May in the 1895-2015 record, statewide, in spite of those wet months. Ten of the last 15 years (June-May periods) have been much drier than normal in the state. The persistent record warmth of the last three years has combined with the extreme dryness to produce a record dry 36-month SPEI for California.”

        SPEI is the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index, which takes into account both temps and precip. Those three years were worse than any 3 years of the 1930s (for CA)! Such sustained low-moisture conditions can have a lasting effect on vegetation health, even if they are followed by normal weather.

        From the latest summary:
        “On a broad scale, the 1980s and 1990s were characterized by unusual wetness with short periods of extensive droughts, the 1930s and 1950s were characterized by prolonged periods of extensive droughts with little wetness, and the first two decades of the 2000s saw extensive drought and extensive wetness (moderate to extreme drought graphic, severe to extreme drought graphic).”

        This page explains different drought indices. Interesting maps.

        • We had 200 years of drought in California about 1000 years ago. Fallen Leaf lake just south of Lake Tahoe was hundreds of feet below its current level. It was that low for so long that the area around the shoreline became forested. That forest still stands today far under the surface of the lake. The past 500 years are estimated to likely be the wettest period in the past 10,000 years. What we consider “normal” is likely wetter than most of the time in any given 120,000 year glacial cycle. These dry periods are not unusual for the species that live here. The problem is that humans have lived here only a very short period of time and have not experienced the extremes nature dishes out a multi-century scale.


    • This video starts out blaming environmentalists for restricting management, as many others tend to do. It makes me wonder just how much this is actually due to environmentalism, though. I can’t see where greenies could be blamed for objecting to clear cutting, but do they also object to controlled burns, for example? Do all green groups actually advocate a completely hands-off approach to forest management everywhere? Somehow I doubt it, but I could be wrong. Anybody know?

      This is one take on the environmentalist perspective, with comments from a couple environmental lawyers.
      One interesting claim is that the brush that regrows after clear-cutting is actually more flammable than intact late-successional forest. This make a lot of sense to me, since closed-canopy forest has much less growth at ground level to burn; it takes a much hotter fire to make it into the canopy. If true, it might help explain why the Camp Fire spread so quickly, since (as I pointed out in my post below) there is evidence that much of the area around the point of origin was clear-cut.

      I think much of the problem is simply one of economics. There is too much forest out there to manage with available funds and staff.

      • Sorry, but no. Because of EAJA, the American taxpayer provides essentially limitless funding for whacko green groups to shut down logging on forests “managed” by the federal government. That’s right, WE pay for them to sue US.

        And, there would be PLENTY of money for better management, if logging was returned to federal forests.

        I live in Lincoln County, Montana, a county unlucky enough to be dominated by the Kootenai National Forest (KNF), fully 78% of the land area. Time was, there was a large sawmill complex in Libby, employing thousands. Today, despite annual net growth of more than 500 million board feet (mbf), the KNF struggles to move 50 mbf, and there isn’t an operating sawmill in the entire county. We are surrounded by BILLIONS of dollars of standing timber, and we boast the highest unemployment rate in all of Montana, with all the social ills attending thereto. Instead of exporting 2×4’s, Lincoln County exports its children. And, the KNF with each passing year grows older, more densely stocked, more decadent, more susceptible to insects and disease, and more fire prone. Lincoln County is not alone – this story is repeated over, and over, and over again across the US West.

        This is immoral, and wrong.

        • LKMiller,

          It’s economics. The Chinese market for lumber has dropped precipitously. Canada produces a lot. Environmentalists don’t waste time with most NF unless there’s wilderness area, old growth or rare and endangered species. There is PLENTY of clear-cutting going on, (just look at the area around Paradise) but it’s a tough market. I worked for the MN DNR forestry division.

          • And, you conveniently ignored the point I made about EAJA. Sorry, but when you can address the point I made, which is absolutely true, c’mon back.

            BTW, I also worked for MN DNR, a number of years ago.

          • LKMiller,

            Sorry. I didn’t even know what EAJA was, so kind of skipped over it. Didn’t realize it was your main point.

            But attorney’s fees are only awarded if it is found that the government’s position is not “substantially justified.” Not sure how that translates to reality, or how often it happens. Seems like that’s not uncommon, though, in civil proceedings.

            Interesting you worked for MN DNR!

          • Kristi,

            That you don’t know what EAJA is and does is disturbing. Passed in 1980 during the last year of the Carter regime, EAJA (Equal Access to Justice Act) has had the unintended consequence of forcing the US taxpayer to fund the frivolous lawsuit party that has shut down the National Forests. The spotted owl hoax and 1994 Northwest Forest “Plan” are other drivers, as are the myriad of often conflicting laws passed by an ignorant Congress in the name of “saving” the environment.

            I have the data, and there is nearly an inverse relationship between acres burned and volume harvested on the National Forests, accelerating after the NFP in 1994.

            And, my other point of the economic and social wreckage left in the wake of federal land mismanagement remains valid. Surrounded by billions of dollars of standing timber, that the people must suffer maximum unemployment is immoral, and wrong.

        • LKMiller,

          I don’t know what you’re talking about. There is clear evidence of extensive logging in KNF. For example,


          The national forests are not “shut down” by any means.

          Sorry about the economic hardships, but it’s not just legislation that controls the timber industry, it’s supply and demand, including international trade.

          Once again, the gov’t only pays if the lawsuit is successful. I bet that dampens the number of “frivolous” lawsuits – suing the gov’t is a spendy proposition.

      • “It makes me wonder just how much this is actually due to environmentalism, though.”

        You might want to research who opposed and lobbied against a proposal Gov. Brown made to the Assembly near the end of the last session. So-called “environmental” groups were lined up in opposition to simply allowing a modest increase in the size of trees that can be thinned from 30 inches to 36 inches. These people are quite insane. They sit in their San Francisco apartments shoveling their trust fund money into orgs that are burning people alive due to their policy positions. It is my personal opinion that many of these “environmental groups” should be sued out of existence.

        • crosspatch,

          Size of what? Diameter at breast height? That’s the standard way of measuring trees – and 6 inches is not insubstantial. Can’t be that, though. Circumference? It’s a 20% increase, at any rate. And a big tree, hardly what I’d call thinning, though I suppose if you’re talking sequoias…

          How would it cause people to burn alive?

          There have to be environmental groups. It’s checks and balances. Otherwise industry would do whatever they wanted, and that wouldn’t be any better for fire control.

  37. I haven’t read all the comments, so this may be redundant.

    Author: There’s a missing “not” in: “Localities have failed to protect their citizens by forbidding the building of homes and businesses in know high-risk areas ”

    I read or inferred on another thread that state regulations on private land might make brush clearing, etc., something that is restricted or requires a permit.

  38. Kip Hansen said:

    “Who would have imagined that the complex problem of California wildfires could actually be “more complicated” than the President could communicate in 140 characters?”

    How would more letters help when he’s directly stated that there is no reason for the fires other than forest management being so poor.

    The problem isn’t a lack of characters, it’s make a false statement.

    • Lack of good forest management policy is the primary factor that allowed what should have been a small fire to take out a town. The fact that there was a fire at all is the fault of state utilities regulators who took 5 years to give permission for PG&E to replace the line towers in that are that they asked to do back in 2013. These thousands of lost homes and dead citizens are the fault of California’s state government.

    • Phillip ==> It is the odd expectation that ANY situation could be properly described in a Tweet….the President should quit Tweeting (along with the rest of the world) and journalists shuld gro up and dd quit reacting like outraged teenagers to every Tweet.

      • Kip,

        In general, I agree with both statements, but this was a particularly egregious and ill-timed tweet.

        The fact is that Trump’s tweets have an effect on public perceptions. If his tweet was erroneous, which this one clearly was, it should be corrected. (As should your partly erroneous post, as I explained in detail – maybe too much detail, but I went to considerable effort to check the facts.)

        • Kristi ==> Which to you think is worse for the country–the NY Times’ constant unrelenting attack on the sitting President over silly little points like “forest fire” vs “wildfire” (in this case, entirely wrongly) or the President’s blaming California’s fire management policies which are only partly, not solely, responsible for the continuing problem.

          You obviously do not follow the President on Twitter (nor do I) or you would know that he made other Tweets in support of the firefighters, promising and sending Federal aid, and Tweets to succor the victims.

          You have not pointed to any errors in my essay — just points you disagree with.

          • Kip,

            His first tweet was sending blame for forest mismanagement, and that led to posts on WUWT echoing this idea, blaming environmentalists, California, etc. Only 14 hours later did he send any thoughts about aid or the victims.

            The NYT wrote about it. So did others. He threatened to cut off funding! Even the head of Cal Fire was offended by it, and said it was wrong. You were so offended by NYT carrying the story that you wrote an erroneous “fact-checking” response of your own – and I have pointed out the errors! It’s not a matter of disagreement, it’s facts! The Camp Fire was not primarily a forest fire. If you want to argue about forest management, it would have been more appropriate to malign clear-cutting. Virtually the whole area between Pulga and Paradise has been clear-cut – until you get the to band around Paradise, the “urban-wildland interface.”

            I don’t know what forest managers could have done differently, unless it was to cut a band around the town and keep it mowed.

          • Kristi ==> Honestly, you seem to always comment on everything except the main thrust of an essay here. You are being as silly as Kendra (who had orders to be silly, in all probability, from her editors).

            You have pointed out no “errors”, you have only insisted that your opinions are somehow “truer” than mine.

            This opinion piece was not about forest management, or President Trump, or his Tweet. If you manage to figure out what it was about, you can comment on that and I will reply.

  39. I was recently reading that environmentalists had been opposing controlled burns to reduce fuel load in the forests because of the pollution it would generate. But, tying back to the heme of this website, do fires have any noticeable affect on the climate/weather?

    I know that volcanic eruptions with ash propelled high into the atmosphere can have lasting cooling effects. But in the case of the united states, the magnitude of wildfires has dropped from over 50 million acres per year to under 10 million in the last century. I would expect similar drops around the world as people try to prevent their local neighborhoods from burning.

    Does the lack of low altitude particulate soot from the fires have any noticeable effect on the environment and the temperature?

  40. There is no “one” thing that caused this but there are several aggravating factors.

    First of all, if you get on Google Earth and look at Camp Creek, you will see that it passes under a large 3-line major regional interconnect. In fact, this line connects the Oroville Dam powerhouse with the Feather River Powerhouse a ways up the river. This is not a line that would be de-energized even when they have winds. They do de-energize the distribution lines that go along the roads into the neighborhoods, but not lines like this.

    Back in 2012 there was a storm that damaged several towers on that line. In 2013, PG&E presented the state utility regulators with a plan to replace several of the towers *right* in the area where this fire started. Some of the damaged metal towers had been replaced with temporary wooden supports until they could get the regulators to give permission for permanently replacing the towers. They didn’t get that permission until 5 years later (this year) and PG&E had not yet started the work. In other words, they knew there was a problem there, they submitted a plan to fix it, and the state dragged their feet on it for FIVE years.

    Secondly, the major problem we have in a more general sense is overgrowth of trees. Currently a private land owner can not cut trees larger than 30 inches or clear any roads to get anything they do cut without getting a very expensive state permit that costs thousands of dollars after all the inspections, consultations, reports, and impact surveys are doing. Gov. Brown made a last minute proposal to the state Assembly to allow private property owners to take trees up to 36 inches and to create temporary roads without a permit provided they replant the road after they are done clearing. A slew of various “environmental groups” pushed back hard against it and it died in the Assembly.

    When forests thicken from 60 trees per acre to over 200 trees per acre, they become more susceptible to drought. A tree pulls a lot of moisture out of the ground and transpires it into the air. The more trees you have in a given space, the more water is being pulled out of the ground and pushed into the air. Prior to western settlement by Europeans, we had about 400,000 to 600,000 natives living in our forests. They used open flame as their only source of light, heat, and food preparation. They had no such thing as “red flag” restrictions and when the winds came up, embers from their camp fires flew and we had very frequent fires. They also sometimes intentionally used fire to clear forests for planting. The point is that frequent fires kept the understory clear of brush. When fires did burn, they burned cool, low to the ground, and did not erupt into massive canopy fires. In fact, about 1,000 years ago, California had a 200 year long “megadrought” and our forests survived just fine.

    When we have too many trees per acre, we not only have a problem with fire caused by very dense fuel loads, but we also get problems with complications of drought stress like bark beetles. Yes, this fire was likely started by a PG&E line but it was made much worse by years of bad forestry policy.

    Prescribed burning in chaparral areas such as in Ventura County is off the table, too, because these same “environmental groups” have lobbied against it due to “air quality concerns”. So instead of releasing that air pollution is small, managed amounts, it all gets released at once in huge conflagrations. Add to the pollution from the burning chaparral, several homes, furniture, vehicles, and maybe a resident or two. These people are quite insane and have no idea what they are talking about when they lobby. But there is an up side for them — fires like the one in Paradise burn rural people out of their homes and help realize their goal of “sustainable development” where rural towns are eradicated and people moved into larger areas.

    My recommendation: No forest area within 10 miles of a densely populated area should have more than 60 trees per acre. ANY area with more than 100 trees per acre should be declared a hazard. An area with 200 or more trees per acre should be declared a direct threat to public safety and should be thinned under threat of imprisonment or fine.

    • Crosspatch,

      Clear-cutting is far more likely to result in large numbers of trees/acre than no cutting at all. So is taking out large trees, which open canopy gaps allowing the understory to grow. Road construction is the same. Thinning of small trees can help, but it’s expensive, especially in the absence of roads (if you’re going to take the wood out).

      “…thinned under threat or imprisonment or fine” To whom? Do you really want to make this a criminal matter? Who is responsible? Who pays for it? To me it seems like it’s zoning and land developers that are creating part of the problem.

      There is no single solution. It’s a complex problem that has to be addressed using a multi-faceted approach.

        • crosspatch,

          Sorry, you’re right, you didn’t mention clear-cutting. I think what made me think of it is that often that’s where you get overstocking like you see in the “overstocked forest” photo in your link.

          The “healthy forest” photo doesn’t really look like a healthy forest to me. I can see clearing that much for the sake of fire control around inhabited areas. But it looks completely unnatural. There’s no forage for animals. And if something caused the larger trees to die, there’s nothing in the understory to replace them.

          A fire would have to be very hot to clear coniferous forest. Meadows are more often due to high water table or other microhabitat factors – or they are historical, as in the Camp Seely photo (which could also explain how thin the surrounding forest is). I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yosemite Valley meadow had been at least partially cleared by humans for livestock. Overgrazing can facilitate meadow being replaced by trees. Simply clearing forest won’t create a stable meadow habitat unless the conditions are right for it.

          ” Meadows are wetlands or semiwetlands
          supporting a cover of emergent hydrophytes and
          mesophytes and dry herblands of the subalpine and alpine
          zones. These meadows are concentrated use points which,
          once destroyed, are not quickly replaced. ”

          That said, I’m not an expert on California ecosystems; I did do a little research before writing my comment, though. Here’s one nice little summary.

  41. The green parts of the maps are the Federally owned forest. Sierra Pacific Industries the largest private landowner in CA and a timber products company might be surprised to find that it doesn’t actually own any forest.

  42. Thanks for all the information here. I’m learning more about fires and forest management here than from any regular news site. Our house was in lower Paradise and, sadly, burned to the ground Nov. 8th. We were planning to retire there; meanwhile, two of our children lived there: one while going to the local state college and the other working in Chico as a special education teacher. They evacuated safely. No one expected any fire to move so quickly!

    I do think population density was a problem: we lived on an acre, as did our neighbors, but there were many high-density mobile home parks and small houses on small lots. I do think the structures themselves were the fuel for the fire once it got going.

    I can say that while our house burned down, nearby trees did not: from the one photo we have, our cherry tree and pistachio tree still stand, as does the line of old trees in my neighbor’s yard. Another neighbor’s house burnt, even though they had kept their yard free of debris or fuel for fire. I think the embers flew from one house to another. We want to rebuild, but we need to consider more fire resistant materials than the wood that was everywhere in our house— outside, inside, ceiling was lined with wood, stairs railings were wood, deck was wood… we loved it, but I bet it burned quickly.😔

    • I suspect that a metal roof, which I’ve had and loved for 25 years, would provide the most bang for the buck—and it would eliminate the need for costly reroofings every 30 years or so.

    • Janelle ==> I’m sorry for your loss but heartened that all evacuated safely!

      I think you are right abut the houses being fuel for the firestorm — based on pictures showing trees remaining standing around burntti-the-foundation homes.

      Here’ to better times!

  43. In this discussion let us not forget that, as the SF Chronicle reported two days ago or so, California has a $15 Billion surplus and a $14.7 Billion Rainy Day fund. Much more than the $1 Billion mentioned in the article needs to be spent to bring this situation under control and fast.

    • Jon, it probably isn’t going to happen. “Progressive” Democrats are not going to go out of their way to save towns they want eradicated anyway. They don’t see the challenge as stopping the wildfires, they see the challenge as convincing people not to live in the woods. Millions spent on forest management is millions they could have spent buying votes in LA. These are the very areas that the notion of “Sustainable Development” says need to be depopulated.

      Years back a community in the Sierras around Lake Tahoe instituted very strict prohibitions against cutting trees of any size. It basically created a situation where people could not create “defensible space” around their homes on their own property. A few of the homeowners did it anyway and payed the large fines. The community eventually burned and their homes were saved.

  44. Epilogue:

    Thanks to all of you who have added details on the topic of the recent California fires. I lived through them for 22 years before coming to by senses and fleeing the state (/sarc) for the high seas and foreign ports.

    As is true for all real issues in today’s world, things are more complicated, more complex, and less well understood than is usually mentioned in the media of any kind. The general public is not well enough educated to grasp just how complex and complicated even easy topics, like wildfires, are. See the list of Rosling’s Rules of Thumb in my Book Review of FACTFULNESS — actually click on the links and read the ten single page, illustrated examples.

    Here again we see how tribal almost all issues have become in the United States — black-and-white, us-and-them, Democrat-and-Republican….some readers seemed to think this essay was about President Trump or that they were obliged by their tribal identity to support this attack on him by the press.

    I will say this — this last week I mounted a Relief Fund for some victims of the Camp Fire in Paradise — the topic of this post — I did not see the names of any of the detractors here on the list of donors — in fact I recognized the names of only a dozen or so. That is both heartening and discouraging as I have been writing (and reading) here for years and recognize the names of those who use Real Names™.
    Those of you who missed the opportunity to can donate here.

    Thank you for your interest and Thank you for Reading!

    # # # # #

  45. Look at how well Arizona has fared (compared with past years) since Governor Jan Brewer told the Feds to pound sand sand set state resources to clearing underbrush and debris.

  46. The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria were the most devastating in Australian history; 173 people tragically lost their lives, 414 were injured, more than a million wild and domesticated animals were lost and 450,000 hectares of land were burned.

    The impact of the bushfires was so overwhelming that Victoria Premier Brumby announced a royal commission into the fires on 13 February 2009, even before the full extent of the disaster was known.

    The commission investigated ‘all aspects of the government’s bushfire strategy’ and included among its 67 recommendations that the Victorian government revise its advice around preparation for bushfires along with its bushfire education policies, and that it modify building codes, including banning the construction of homes in high-risk areas.

    Class action lawsuits initiated in the Supreme Court of Victoria against electricity distribution company SP Ausnet eventually led to a $494 million settlement in relation to the Kinglake fire and a $300 million out-of-court settlement in relation to the Marysville fire. At the time these sums were the largest class action settlements in Australian history.


  47. Richard ==> Your new assertion is even wackier than the first. Paying for a newspaper so that one can read it without stealing it is right and proper. One also gets the right to criticize the same paper as a reader and subscriber. It would be dishonest to read and subsequently criticize without paying for the priviledge.

  48. The facts dont matter to the new York Pravda all that matters to this liberal leftist rag is destroying Trumps presidency replacing him with democrat and forcing America to abide by the Paris Accord which belongs in the paper shredder with all those UN Treaties

  49. The people would have survived any fire if they had just gone down into the potato cellar.

    But obviously there are no more potato cellars in the US.

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