Failed US 'Smokey Bear' fire suppression policies risk lives, harm forest health and drain limited agency budgets
MT. LEMMON AZ -- To escape the blazingly hot city, my family and I spent yesterday at the top of the great Santa Catalina Range, just north of Tucson. It was very nice.
In the five years since the Aspen fire, I've been watching the ecological recovery of this Arizona Sky Island forest, and it is impressive. The aspen trees, which in many places were badly choked off by encroaching small pines caused by fire suppression, are coming back and many are now quite big. Aspens are very pretty, and great wildlife habitat.
Western forests need fire for forest health, and you can clearly see this on Mt. Lemmon. Without a doubt, the parts of the Santa Catalinas that burned in 2003 are now much stronger ecologically.
On Mt. Lemmon, the small town of Summerhaven is being rebuilt, but sadly, there are still many building owners who still have not removed vegetation to create 'defensible space' around their places to protect from fire. This failure is why so many structures burned down in 2003, and why it'll happen again unless they change their ways. Firefighters should not be put at risk due to irresponsible private property owners who refuse to respect or prepare for fire.
Lightning started two natural fires yesterday in the remote Rincon Mountains east of the city, but the Forest Service, still mostly stuck in the Smokey Bear myth, is unwisely rushing to try to put them out. A stupid waste. Federal fire suppression efforts are the primary cause of forest fuels buildup that causes the huge mega-fires we are now seeing.
Every fire season, environmentally uneducated reporters simply yell 'fire!, fire!' and mostly just repeat after agency fire bosses -- who have a direct economic interest in continuing failed fire suppression policies -- instead of giving people the facts about the critical importance of natural fire to forest health. This misinforms the general public.
Firefighters die, and millions are wasted as agencies drain their budgets every year trying to suppress fires. I was formerly a BLM firefighter, and any experienced wildlands firefighter knows that fires largely calm down or go out when nature decides -- when the wind dies, when it rains or the humidity goes up. The feds must get smarter with wildlands fire, and stop risking lives, dumping toxic chemical retardants, and throwing away millions of dollars in on-going pursuit of the wasteful, outdated, misguided and expensive fire-industrial complex.
UPDATE, 2pm: The Forest Service has decided to let one of the Rincon fires burn, at least for now -- a good move -- while still trying to put out the other one. Perhaps they read this post this AM and decided to follow some of my advice.
from AP: 'Coronado National Forest spokesman Randall Smith says the 580-acre Cumero fire and the 160-acre Distillery fire are burning calmly and are acting like prescribed fires. The lightning-caused blazes are not threatening any homes.
Smith said Monday that crews hope to fully contain the Cumero fire in the next couple of days, but will allow the Distillery fire to burn up to several thousand acres as it's in very rugged terrain. About 130 firefighters are on the two blazes.'