Stephen Pyne, author of many books about wildland fire and a Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, prompted by the Wallow fire has written a very interesting article for The Arizona Republic. Here are a couple of excerpts:
What is striking about the American style of fire [management] is how technically robust it is and how politically dysfunctional and inept in practice so much of it has become.
There are exceptions. Florida has mastered prescribed fire and created a legal framework to make it work. Southern California knows how to battle fires in the I-zone, where wildland and a city slam together. The Gila Wilderness has, over 40 painstaking years, evolved a natural fire program.
All rely on local cultures that have reached consensus about what needs to be done and how to do it. In most of the country, instead, we have the fire equivalent of a public-health system with unlimited money for emergency response but little for insurance, vaccines or wellness visits.
We aren’t going to stomp fire out, and we can’t afford to outsource it to lightning, arsonists, and sloppy campers. We know better. We’ve known better for years. We just can’t muster the social consensus to fix it. It’s finally worth noting that only a scratch line in the duff separates tragedy from travesty.