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There's A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight

1,459 Fires Burning Across (Mostly) Northern California

Last year, Southern California was on fire.  This year, at least so far, it's Northern California's turn.  There are over 1,450 fires burning, which so far have consumed more than 436,000 acres or just about 682 square miles, despite nearly 19,000 firefighters on the front lines.

Just in case you're learning trivia for the National Geographic geography bee, that's more than half of Rhode Island that's up in flames.

Indeed, the National Geographic asked the question, Why is the West Ablaze?  It's not only a good question, but also one without a ready answer.  Our national fire policy is to extinguish blazes where they pop up.  That might not be nature's way, however.  The forest naturally thins out, bringing in new growth and providing nutrients for old growth.

Is it time to retire Smokey the Bear?

Unlike SoCal's fires from last year, most of NorCal's fires have been caused by lightning strikes.  The smoke plume is bad, and extends from the top to the bottom of our state.  Again, to put it in East Coast terms, that's from the top of Pennsylvania all the way down to the top of Florida.  Without these comparisons, Easterners, who are three hours ahead literally and figuratively, have no perspective.

So what should we do?  In Australian forestry areas, generally it's every man, woman and child for themselves.  The government doesn't dictate evacuations and while it fights fires, it does so only selectively.  If you've elected to live in a fire danger area, then you're responsible for your safety and property.

Can we handle that mentality here?

Wait.  Let me call 911 to find out.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, July 01, 2008

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