Outsourcing wildfire

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Wallow fire flames 6-8-2011
Wallow fire flames 6-8-2011
Wallow fire, June 8, 2011. Photo by Kari Greer for NIFC. Credit: USFS

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.


Thanks Dick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “Outsourcing wildfire”

  1. Very pointed and to the point. This is something that needs looking at throughout not only our country, but those around us as well, looking at the maps of both Canada and Mexico. Hopefully, people who need to read this will…

    Many thanks to those who are putting their lives on the line for those of us everywhere. You guys and gals are the greatest! I’m on the site multiple times every day watching, hoping, and working with you.


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