Here’s how to respond to those misleading posts claiming our recent fires are all about tree huggers preventing logging and a supposed fuel build up via past fire suppression.
1. Most of California’s most devastating fires were far from any forest (see map below).
2. For those few devastating fires that were near forests, most if not all of those forests around the communities destroyed had the kind of suggested thinning and fuel treatments misinformed commentators claim didn’t exist.
3. The majority of the area burned during the Camp Fire before it hit the town of Paradise had burned 10 years ago and was composed of habitats other than forest (e.g. post fire shrublands). The wind-driven ember rain that ignited the town came primarily from these 10-year-old sparse to dense shrublands, grasslands, areas damaged from salvage logging, and young tree plantations northeast of the town. A large percentage of the trees within the devastated town did not burn. See the fire progression map here and match it with the current view on Google Earth.
The Los Angeles Times discussed the science behind the fire’s path.
Here is an excellent map of the fire from the New York Times.
4. Climate change is drying the state. Dryer conditions lead to a more flammable landscape. We may also see more of the kind of winds that powered the Camp Fire into Paradise.
“The major factor is climate change across the west. Regardless of fuels management, we just wouldn’t be burning like this, especially in Northern California, in a normal year.”
– Dr. Leroy Westerling, UC Merced
More fires will dramatically alter the kinds of habitats we are used to seeing. Highly flammable, non-native weed-filled landscapes that dominate places like Riverside County will likely become more common. More on this issue here.