For much of the 20th Century, US agencies and private landowners suppressed fires as a matter of policy. The results were disastrous. The accumulation of wood fuel resulted in fires that burn so hot, they sometimes kill the forest, turning it into shrub-land.
"The idea that fire is somehow new, a product solely of climate change, and part of a moral crusade for the soul of the nation, borders on insane. - Geographer Paul Robbins of the University of Wisconsin
The History of Fires
Scientists calculate that, before Europeans arrived, 4.4 million acres of California burned annually - which is approximately 16x larger than the amount that burned in 2019.
Between 1982 and 1998, California's Agency Land Managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres per year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres.
Recent Fix Attempts
California passed a few new laws in 2018 designed to facilitate more intentional burning. Few are optimistic that this, alone, will lead to significant change.
In February of 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres - about the same size as Maine - to destabilize in terms of fire.
Climate bias compounded by partisan bias.
Journalists ridiculed President Trump for suggesting that California needed to rake its undergrowth as the the states failure to remove undergrowth played a part in the fires. Even though scientists and geographers agree, that the build-up of wood fuel is a massive issue, journalists still pretend Trump is/was wrong.
We dug ourselves into a deep, dangerous fuel imbalance due to one simple fact. We live in a climate that's designed to burn, and we've prevented it from burning anywhere close to enough for well over a hundred years.
"Fires are among the best and more horrifying propagandists for climate change" - Wallace Wells
Sources: Forbes, Propublica
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