October 28, 2007

Government Sloth Leads to Death and Destruction

Here's a a few interesting nuggets gleaned from a New York Times article on the San Diego fires.

This pearl of wisdom comes right in the lead

As Californians sift through the cinders of this week’s deadly wildfires, there is a growing consensus that the state’s war against such disasters — as it is currently being fought — cannot be won.
I suppose if someone had to state the painfully obvious it had to be the Times. (Or they were just paraphrasing this.)

But it's not like there aren't people who understand the nature of the problem.
Fire-management experts like Professor Minnich, who has compared fire histories in San Diego County and Baja California in Mexico, say the message is clear: Mexico has smaller fires that burn out naturally, regularly clearing out combustible underbrush and causing relatively little destruction because the cycle is still natural. California has giant ones because its longtime policies of fire suppression — in which the government has kept fires from their normal cycle — has created huge pockets of fuel that erupt into conflagrations that must be fought.
California's current fire suppression policies are a large part of why they have large catastrophic fires. But according to the Times, government fire suppression policies that lead to larger more catastrophic fires are not the real problem.
The main problem is that many in California are ruggedly obstinate about the choice they have made to live with the constant threat of fire.
It's not the fault of the policies that result in the larger, more dangerous fires, it's the people whose homes are destroyed and who face death in the fires.

Might it not be a good idea to do something about the fire suppression policies that lead to these catastrophic fires before more homes are destroyed and more lives are lost? You would think so - if you're not part of the government in California.
Even state officials who are interested in change concede it could take a decade — and more catastrophic wildfires — before it happens.  [...]

The California state fire marshal, Kate Dargan, said discussions had begun at the highest levels of government on some of the toughest proposals: curtailing population growth on the wildland margins or a sweeping overhaul of how the public lands are managed for fire danger. But decisions are perhaps 5 to 10 years away because of the enormity and complexity of the task.

“In the meantime,” Ms. Dargan said, “we’ll have more people living out there, and if averages hold, we’ll have two more catastrophic incidents like this before the decisions get made.”

Two more catastrophic fires before the government of California can or will do anything about it. How do people out there find this acceptable?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:59 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

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