Again this year the West is on fire. The huge and very dangerous fire in Los Angeles — which still isn’t under control — dominated the news the last couple of weeks. Now there’s a big one burning in Big Sur.
Fires are ongoing in almost every state in the West — Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Arizona and California — and firefighters and resources are stretched to the max. Many of the homes threatened are on the edge of wilderness and maybe ought not be there. Or so says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell who contends these dwellings are hard to protect, expensive to protect and they are draining resources she says would be better spent defending forests, rangeland and the habitat for wildlife.
In the fire in Los Angeles firefighters managed — through a Herculean effort — to save 2,000 homes in the first three days of that fire. And this nearly superhuman effort is going on all over the states in the West as fires pop up.
At a meeting in May at Boise, Idaho’s National Interagency Fire Center Jewell said, “I fly back and forth across the country and I see it. We should be holding these people accountable, and we're not.”
But who is most accountable? Those building or local governments letting them build there? Whoever is accountable is not considering the financial and human burden for the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies. It is tremendous. In 2015 half of the Forest Service budget went to fighting fire. In one week alone it spent $243 million. That’s money designated for other — ironically — fire prevention projects.
And Forest Service spokesman Larry Sutton said most of the time after a huge fire, people rebuild in those same dangerous areas and don’t worry much about the next fire storm coming. “It may be just the mistaken belief that we're always going to be able to show up and save the day. But nothing would be able to stop some of these firestorms,” he said.
Worse. The death toll from all these fires continues to mount. Countless homeowners have died and so have many firefighters.
Source link: Associated Press