Fire!

California is the world’s 6th largest economy (SF Bay Area  is 21) …and is once again on the leading edge of something….

….. apocalyptic fires in dense urban areas – in December! –  in Southern California. You can bet that something will be done about this new phenom, now that the 1%’er celebrities in Bel Air and Montclair had some of their mansions destroyed. 1.063 homes destroyed, one life lost in SoCal.  NoCal  lost  44 lives and over 10,000 homes.

As one SoCal person said ‘there should be snow on those mountains right now, instead they’re on fire’…  Best article by far on California’s overall  changing climate and fire, is at this link… LA Times. 

A sign of things to come… everything else aside: fire is nature’s #1 ecological restorative process.   

For California, several things are unique and first-time events: high winds from 10pm till 4am – coming from the North and East. Unheard of in December and in SoCal. That, coupled with hot temperatures (90F+) and dry vegetation (‘it doesn’t rain in southern california in the summertime’) and you have a deadly combo – all that’s needed is a spark.

For the recent Northern California fires it was unusual that commerical properties, hotels, and entire subdivisions burned to the ground.  Caused by – perhaps overhead power lines.   A spark though can come from many sources: a backfiring muffler parked next to a curb of dry grass, a piece of metal/chain dragging on concrete, someone flicking out a cigarette butt…. it doesn’t take much.

making Fire personal…

WinSol is bordered on three sides by El Dorado National Forest and very dense trees and underbrush. For the first time ever there is the most extensive logging along the nearby roads that I have seen since the mid 1980’s. This is both good and bad. Bad, in that they are marginally clear cutting – removing 100% of the large trees, leaving nothing but trees under 8” diameter – that’s crazy! The good, in that the dangerous underbrush is being removed, and that lumber prices will undoubtedly go down.

All the warnings have been about new homes being built in the forestlands…

I’ve been through five fires. Two of them major. One destroyed my home, another my storage shed, and two in-house fires from a burning chimney (creosote) and another one I caused with a brazing torch. The first fire was started by loggers I had hired in 1995 – it came within inches of burning WinSol2 – a 2” PVC pipe burned through and unleashed 5,000+gallons of water. It was merely a temporary ‘stay’ because six years later the entire house burned to the ground – supposedly set ablaze by a drifter.

I know that WinSol3 will burn eventually – whether it’s tomorrow or 50 years from now, the forest around here will burn. Fire is the most ecological restorative process in nature’s toolbelt. We humans don’t stand a chance – no matter what our collective ego tries.

Solutions

Part of the answer is to let the fires burn.  At an Oregon conference i attended a couple years ago it was called ‘point protection’: Point the fire away from old growth trees and dwellings, and let it burn itself out.

Tahoe and the El Dorado NFS has another solution:  monitoring.  With the collaboration between hi-tech satellites and quick-strike teams, we have not had a major fire in the last two years!  wow – that’s a first.  i’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Acceptance is the ultimate solution. I accept the fact that WinSol and the learning center will burn… hopefully later rather than sooner.  i do take precautions in cutting the hundreds of surrounding manzanita bushes,  clearing out dozens of trees each summer and raking up as many of the oak leaves and pine needles and cones that we can muster… it’s an endless job since nature never rests in producing off-springs and growing… which is a beautiful thing.

 

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