Monday, January 21, 2019

Trump shutdown increasing risk of weaponized wildfire


A segment earlier today on NPR's Morning Edition featured a wildland firefighter couple frustrated with Donald Trump’s war on America and its resulting lapses in training and the prescribed fires critical to getting ahead of human-caused blazes. Il Trumpo has blamed California wildfires on the lack of logging with statements typically lacking in facts but the real culprits are downed power lines and a warming climate.

Because of Trump's tyranny nearly every Forest Service twitter account has been silent since mid-December. The Santa Fe National Forest was forced to cancel a prescribed burn near Pecos but the local Greater Santa Fe Fireshed Coalition that includes the Santa Fe Fire Department and Forest Stewards Guild still plan pile burns in the Aztec Springs area. If counties and states just burned off their road and highway rights of way every year that creates substantial fire breaks. Ruidoso’s new emergency plan lists wildfire as its number one hazard so Chloeta, a Native American international emergency management and environmental consulting firm, is still advertising for wildfire educators.

Early season wildfires are not unusual in New Mexico. Last year's fire season began in March. Christmas Day, our area in Santa Fe County was under a red flag warning the day before the first round of recent back to back winter storms so if it's not snow it's a wildland fire. New Mexico has been home to a much larger aspen community in the fairly recent past and ponderosa pine sucks millions of gallons from aquifer recharges, needles absorb heat and accelerate snow melt.

In recent years Spring wildfire seasons have begun in eastern Colorado, western Kansas, the panhandles of Oklahoma, Texas and other Republican-held areas where moral hazard and poor ranching practices have decimated the high plains: a region where bison would have been clearing fine, flashy fuels just 150 years ago.

Prescriptive fires should have been set weeks ago on public lands in my home state of South Dakota but it's still suffering from repeated leadership lapses, a century of fire suppression, a decades-long moratorium on prescribed burns, a lack of environmental litigators, GOP retrenchment and the potential for weaponized wildfire blowback from the drone war being conducted by Ellsworth Air Force Base. Because of earth hater John Thune the cost of prescribed fire has soared to over $2000 an acre putting the Black Hills National Forest and Wind Cave National Park in harm's way.

Over a half million wildfires are started by arsonists every year in the US and if you live in the wildland-urban interface government can't always protect you from your own stupidity. Volunteer fire departments are irreplaceable as first responders to unexpected blazes and if the Federal Emergency Management Agency survives a Trump presidency Democrats should convince Congress to make sure the resources are there to sustain rural fire departments.