Fire Threatened 2,000 Year Old Trees in Argentina

It appears to be under control now, but for a while there was concern for some 2,000 year old cypress trees being threatened by a fire in the Patagonia region of Argentina, according to Reuters.

BUENOS AIRES, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Firefighters battled forest fires in Argentina’s Patagonia region on Thursday, but thousand-year-old trees in a national park were not threatened by the flames, a provincial official said.

The fire, which government officials blamed on arsonists, started in the Alerces National Park, raising fears about damage to the park’s famous Patagonian cypress trees. The trees can live for 2,000 years or more, making some of them among the oldest living things on Earth.

“The national park is totally under control. There’s no fire and the firefighters are doing the ground maintenance work to make sure it doesn’t catch fire again,” provincial government spokesman Daniel Taito said by telephone.

However, he said the flames had ravaged some 7,400 acres (3,000 hectares) of mostly native woodland beyond the borders of the national park, which lies in the Andean region of Chubut province near the Chilean border.

Local officials ordered the few residents of the sparsely populated area to evacuate their homes.

Environment Secretary Romina Picolotti, who visited the scene, said action was being taken “to find the culprits of this arson.”

Roof Sprinkler for Structure Protection

roof sprinklerWhen structures are threatened by wildland fires, sprinklers are sometimes placed on roofs, but installing them means climbing on the roof. A company in Florida has developed a sprinkler that can be placed on the peak of the roof while you stand on a ladder at the side of the structure. The trick is attaching 5-foot sections of PVC pipe to the sprinkler which are then used to push the roller-mounted unit up the roof. Then a garden hose is attached to the PVC pipe. It looks like this could be a worthwhile addition to structure protection kits.

The cost for one complete unit is around $300, depending on what state it will be shipped to.

Be warned, that when you go to the site, a damn video starts playing automatically. I hate that. You can stop the video by clicking on “close video”.

Wally Bennett: "We’ve got a lot less of the toys we need to do the job"

At a three-day conference organized by FireSafe Montana, Wally Bennett, a Type 1 Incident Commander, told the group that climate change and fewer air tankers and hand crews are making the job of wildland firefighters more difficult.

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

“Coming summers will bring more and bigger wildfires to the Northern Rockies. But it also will bring fewer firefighters, less equipment for them to use, and more and more homes to protect in flammable landscapes.

That’s the message spelled out Tuesday by climate and firefighting experts at a conference at the Bozeman Holiday Inn.

“We’ve got a lot less of the toys we need to do the job we’re doing out there,” said Wally Bennett, a veteran commander of a Type I incident command team, the type of force that tackles large and complex blazes.

Bennett was one of the speakers at the three-day conference organized by FireSafe Montana, a fledgling nonprofit group that is trying to motivate landowners, county governments, developers and other entities to do more to protect private land before wildfire reaches it.

Several years ago, Bennett said, firefighting teams had 32 large retardant planes available to them. Last year, they had 16.

The number of 20-person hand teams has declined from roughly 750 to about 450 over the same time period, he said, and that number is likely to fall further.

“There’s not enough to go around,” he said.

That’s partly because a rookie firefighter can earn about the same pay flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

Meanwhile, a warming climate is bringing earlier snowmelt along with hotter, drier summers, said Faith Anne Heisch, a climate researcher who works with Steve Running, the University of Montana professor who was part of the Nobel-prize winning International Panel on Climate Change.”

The NewWest.net site also has a lengthy article on the conference.

Mark Rey; Not Going To Jail

The U.S. District Court Judge cleared Mark Rey of the contempt charges yesterday. From the Missoulian:

“U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey walked out of federal court a free man Wednesday in Missoula, wearing not an orange inmate’s jumpsuit but the gray business suit with American flag lapel pin he had donned for his contempt hearing.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy cleared Rey, the Bush administration’s top forest official, and the Forest Service of contempt and withdrew his threat to jail Rey or ground all fire retardant air tankers until the agency evaluated the environmental impact of the chemical slurry.

Molloy did not rule on the merits of the Forest Service’s environmental analysis, and the watchdog group whose lawsuit prompted the showdown said it planned to take new legal action to challenge the agency’s finding that aerial retardant causes little harm to fish and other aquatic creatures.
“We accomplished what we wanted to do, which was to make the Forest Service follow the law,” said Andy Stahl, director of the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, based in Eugene, Ore.

In his testimony, Rey apologized for the Forest Service’s tardiness in following the judge’s order to complete an environmental analysis of the potential harm from ammonium phosphate, the primary ingredient in retardant dropped on wildfires.”

Arson Threat Against Sierra Club Members

An idiot who has a computer and knows how to use it has posted on his blog the suggestion that…

“If you know a Sierra Club member, please feel free to set their home on fire.”

I hesitate to post about this, because it is probably, like the “Forest Jihad” threat, just the rantings of a crazed lunatic who did not receive enough attention from his mother, so he gets it by posting on the Internet.

But, you’ll probably hear about this anyway, so….. The Missoulian has the whole story.

Years ago I was a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club. But when they began going over the top with their policies, such as demanding that there be no timber harvesting on National Forests, I left the organization. Watchdog organizations serve a purpose, but they are most effective when they present a reasoned, logical, and practical point of view. The arson threat is of course absurd, and I wish no ill-will towards the Sierra Club.

(Thanks to Dick Mangan for the tip.)

Mark Rey Not In Jail Yet

Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey spent part of the day in court, but nothing is decided yet. The process will continue tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday). More information is on the Missoulian site.

“Faced with possible jail time, U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey on Tuesday repeatedly apologized to a federal judge in Missoula for the Forest Service’s delays in evaluating the environmental impacts of fire retardant.

But Rey, the Bush administration’s top forest official, insisted the agency has complied with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy is presiding over a watchdog group’s 2003 lawsuit that accuses the Forest Service of violating the nation’s top environmental laws in the agency’s use of fire retardant.The hearing is scheduled to resume Wednesday afternoon.”