Wildfire and climate change: two different approaches

Two recent newspaper articles on two different continents discuss the role of wildfire and how it may be connected in various ways to climate change, by reducing or worsening it.

The article in the New York Times covers the health of forests and how big, healthy trees soak up and store carbon dioxide, and how important it is to prevent fires which emit carbon into the atmosphere.

Conversely, an Australian organization, West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA), is promoting prescribed fire as a tool to prevent bushfires or wildfires which would emit more carbon into the atmosphere than the much smaller prescribed fires. Their “indigenous fire management technique” has led to a landmark greenhouse gas offset agreement between a giant oil company, ConocoPhillips, and the indigenous peoples in west Arnhem Land in Australia. They expect the project to produce at least 1 million tons worth of carbon credits annually while creating 200 new jobs. WALFA members will attend the climate change talks in Copenhagen to propose that similar projects be adopted in the savannas of Africa, where the potential for carbon reduction is huge.

Thanks Dick

Wondering what to get that firefighter for Christmas?

Here are some ideas for Christmas presents for that firefighter in your life. Free shipping is available for some items today only, Monday November 30.

Wildland Firefighter Foundation–The first thing to consider would be something from the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. The WFF does great work supporting injured wildland firefighters and the families of fallen firefighters. From their site, you could select a WFF shirt, membership in their 52 Club, or other items.

Air Tanker items— You can get many different items with the new 2010 Air Tanker logo on the front, and silhouettes of 10 different air tankers on the back. The images can be found on t-shirts, mugs, sweatshirts, hoodies, caps, Sigg bottles, and men’s and women’s underwear. Free shipping today only, Monday, Nov. 30 until midnight PT. Upon checkout, use coupon code FREE4VIP

Wildfire Today items–Help support Wildfire Today by getting something with the Wildfire Today logo. It is available on shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, teddy bears, dog t-shirt, Sigg water bottles, travel mug, kids clothes, and men’s and women’s underwear. The shirts start at $9.69 and the mug is $11.89. Free shipping today only, Monday, Nov. 30 until midnight PT. Upon checkout, use coupon code FREE4VIP

Protection of “no man’s land”–editorial

The issue of fire protection of private land between fire districts in eastern Washington continues to smolder following last summer’s Dry Creek fire. Several state lawmakers are threatening to introduce legislation that would require firefighters to fight fires regardless of whether it’s in their district or not, calling it a “duty to serve” law.

Here is an excerpt from an editorial in the Yakima-Herald:

While we understand the anger of those who felt firefighters didn’t provide enough assistance during the Dry Creek fire, we also realize the enormity of what firefighters have to deal with during a wildland fire. Communication among fire crews is difficult in these far-flung rural areas, with firefighters forced to work in deep ravines where cell phones and radios prove ineffective.

The unpredictability of these fires also makes fighting them extremely hazardous and frustrating. The [Silver Dollar cafe which burned in the fire] fell victim to a fire’s fickle nature. Though the cafe was used briefly as a staging area, firefighters had no proper equipment available when fire erupted suddenly and gutted the restaurant.

Liability and costs are legitimate concerns for rural fire districts. Providing firefighting services to those who wish to live in no man’s land is something lawmakers may seek to require, but the state also must offer adequate compensation for this “duty to serve.”

Residents can — and should — seek to be included in nearby fire districts or set up their own district.

Living in secluded rural areas has its benefits, and its costs. Wildland fires are a fact of life in these scrub-brush regions. It’s also equally certain that something more needs to be done. The status quo isn’t working for anyone.

What we don’t want is a repeat of Dry Creek.

I crushed someone’s childhood memory of Smokey Bear yesterday

On November 24 when I was working on installing the new Wildfire Fighter game on my iTouch, I exchanged a phone call and some emails with the company that produced it, and also with Chris Skaggs, the lead developer of the software. With Mr. Skaggs’ permission, here are copies of some of the emails. All were on November 24:


From Chris, forwarded to me by someone at the company that produced the game:

My dad was a career firefighter captain in Lake Arrowhead, CA – a resort town not far from LA. And every year we went through wildfire season where some pretty massive fires ripped through those mountains. SO I grew up with a constant awareness of the risks and dangers of wildfires as they regularly threatened my home and we had to evacuate several times as fires got within a mile or two of my home. In fact, the real Smokey bear was a bear cub found in a burnt out tree after the great Bear Fire – he was found about 10 miles from my house.


From me, to someone at the company that produced the game with whom I had been talking:

Thanks- But you might pass along to Mr. Scaggs that Smokey Bear was found in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico.

From someone at the company that produced the game, to Chris:

Do you have any comment? He is calling you out on smokey bear knowledge!~ You might give him an email to say hi. He wrote about you in a good way earlier today. 🙂

From Chris to me:

Dude – I called my dad and I’ve basically been wrong my whole life. 🙂

But there’s a good reason…

I grew up right next to the Children’s Forest in the San Bernardino mountains. (http://www.sbnfa.com/chindex.php)
This site was built in the wake of the Great Bear Fire in 1970…but that fire was not named after Smokey Bear (which is what I’d always thought) but after Bear Creek and/or the nearby town of Big Bear (depending on who you ask).

There is a painting of Smokey Bear clasping the stump he was found on in that area and somewhere in my 5 year old mind I got the two stories put together and nobody ever corrected me until today…then again, I don’t know that I ever talked about it to anybody before now either…

So Mr. Gabbert appears to be spot on…and a precious childhood memory lay shattered in the ashes. 😉

BUT – all the other stuff is true…I think…pretty much… 😉

When I asked Chris for permission to print the story, he replied:


Feel free to print my story. Please let me know when/where I can see it. My dad would really get a kick out of that.

Inaja fire, November 25, 1956

Eleven firefighters – two Forest Service personnel and nine from Viejas Honor Camp – lost their lives fighting this human-caused fire west of Julian, California on November 25, 1956. Soon after this fire, the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders were developed.

This was one of the first fires where sodium calcium borate was used as a fire retardant dropped from an air tanker. It was quickly discovered that this chemical sterilized the soil, and by 1957 it was no longer used. However, the term “borate bomber” lingered on for decades.

For more info