California’s wildfire reality needs this new plan

A wildfire rages in Buck Meadows, in the Yosemite National ParkWildfires in California, which for the first time in living memory know no season — the state is dry at all times of the year — are vastly different from the old notion of “forest” fires in mostly unpopulated places.

That’s why a fresh initiative out of Sacramento in Gov. Jerry Brown’s May revision of his budget forecast is right to include $96 million in new annual spending, from various funding sources, to support up-to-date firefighting that acknowledges new climate and exurban-growth realities. That modest but important spending will come in addition to $160 million proposed in January to use money from the environmental cap-and-trade funds on timberland-management improvements and fire protection in state and national forests.

Forest fires of what can now be thought of as the old-fashioned, Smokey Bear variety, do indeed still occur, often in remote wilderness areas of California’s many mountain ranges, often sparked by old-fashioned causes such as lightning. And they still need to be fought, or at least monitored. In fact, because of increased dryness and ever-vaster fires throughout the nation’s West, almost the entire budget of the United States Forest Service in recent years has been devoted to fighting wildfires.

But think back to the most recent devastating fires of several months back in California — they were not exactly in the Sierra Nevada.

October’s wine country wildfires in the end became the most financially harmful in our state’s history, with insurance claims of almost $10 billion. The state Insurance Department says that means the several related fires centered in Sonoma and Napa counties went past those in the suburban Oakland Hills fire of 1991 to become the most expensive every in California. …

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Jerry Brown Blames Climate Change for California Fires

VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is destroyed by brush fire as Santa Ana winds help propel the flames to move quickly through the landscape on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

California Governor Jerry Brown blamed climate change for the California fires that have devastated the state this fall during a visit to assess the damage in Ventura County on Saturday.

“This is the new normal,” he said, as quoted by the Orange County Register. “We’re facing a new reality where fires threaten peoples’ lives, their properties, their neighborhoods and cost billions and billions of dollars. We have to have the resources to combat the fires, and also have to invest in managing our vegetation and forests and all the ways we dwell in this very wonderful place — but a place that’s getting hotter.”

However, climate scientists are more skeptical, noting that climate change could be one of a variety of factors.

A comprehensive look at the question by Southern California Public Radio — hardly a conservative outlet — found that there was considerable debate about the factors that made this year’s fires particularly bad.

One factor was high winds, whose connection to climate change is “still up for debate.” Another factor was the state’s recent drought, which persisted in the part of Southern California where the Thomas fire — now in excess of 150,000 acres, with only 15% containment — struck. (Ironically, last winter’s heavy rains caused brush to grow rapidly, giving fires plenty of fuel to burn.)

An important factor in the fires of the past week was that people are building homes in areas that are naturally prone to wildfires, or where naturally dry conditions mean that the kinds of building materials and vegetation that people prefer to use in cities and suburbs are a fire hazard.

Brown has frequently cited climate change as the cause for natural disasters before, only to be corrected by scientists, who suggested he was guilty of “noble-cause corruption” — i.e. distorting science in service of a cause that many scientists support.

Last year, both Brown and then-President Barack Obama falsely linked wildfires across the western United States to climate change. And last month, Brown told a conference at the Vatican that the world needed “brain washing” on climate change.

Aside from the Thomas fire, firefighters have made significant progress in their struggle against some of the other fires burning across the region. The Skirball fire near the 405 Freeway, which brought traffic to a standstill in Los Angeles on Thursday, was at 75 percent containment as of Saturday afternoon, according to Southern California Public Radio. The Lilac fire, which killed several dozen horses on Thursday, was fully contained by Saturday evening, according to the Register.

“The Creek Fire was now 80% contained, and the Rye Fire was 65% contained” as of Saturday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Officials say there have been no deaths associated with the Southern California fires.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Southern California braces for severe wildfire season

As reported by the Desert Sun:

The thousands of acres burning across Southern California this week foreshadow what’s expected to be a severe wildfire season, the head of the U.S. Forest Service said.

Chief Thomas L. Tidwell predicts certain parts of the country — including Southern California and Arizona, where four large, uncontained fires are burning this week  — will have active fire seasons, like Washington and California did last year.

Last year was one of the worst wildfire years since at least 1960, according to records kept by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. More than 10.1 million acres were charred in 68,151 incidents. That compares to 3.5 million acres in 2014 and 4.3 million in 2013.

Two wildfires scorched thousands of acres and forced the evacuations of more than 850 homes in the San Gabriel Mountains about 95 miles northwest of the Coachella Valley this week. Several hundred residents were …

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