Merced County Times Newspaper
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There Was Time When California Fires Were Stoppable, Now They Are Not

John Derby
Times Publisher John Derby

Year ago, fires burned regularly in our California forests and they were an asset, ridding the forests of the undergrowth. Actually, the forests needed them to germinate seeds of many plant species and to reproduce some of the largest of California trees.

In a way, California had its own natural Forest Management Program.

Then Mankind got into the act, and Forest Management went out the window. Someone in government felt that tree harvesting was all wrong even though the trees were grown for harvest or certain trees needed cutting to properly manage the forest.

The undergrowth accumulated and no proper thinning was done. Someone decided that all trees were sacred and none should be touched. Most timber harvesting companies went out of business. Mills shut down and people moved into other jobs.

The people who really loved and cared for the forests also changed.

A few rare ones actually studied forestry in school and tried to make a living doing it.

Our state, in all its wisdom, decided that it no longer needed a Department of Forestry and combined it with the California Fire Department (Cal Fire). The two departments were actually quite different as they should be, because one works to manage the forests, and the other works to put out fires.

Every year the State of California spends more and more money on putting out fires in California. More men and more equipment, but the fate of the fires is the same. More and bigger fires.

Yes, we have had climate change; however, that is not fully to blame.

The Federal Government had a plan to allow the fires to burn as long as the fires did not get out of control. That has been the case until just recently when fires have become so big and grown so fast, that all the resources of the state and the Federal Fire Service can’t stop them.

Finally after waiting too long, they decided a change of policy was due, and that letting fires burn did not work. Finally, they realize that all fires are potentially out of control until they are stopped completely.

The smallest fire can be picked up by a quick wind and turn into its own firestorm. We are seeing it now in California. It happened in Paradise, and it has just happened again. The Gold Rush town of Greenville has been wiped out. It’s gone.

As of Monday afternoon, Aug. 9, the Dixie Fire which started on July 13 was only a little over 21 percent contained.

When will they ever learn?

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