Conflicting reports here, here, here and here (just a few examples) on the number of Australians arrested for arson in the wake of that country’s historic bushfires nonetheless highlighted the role played by humans in creating an ecological disaster. Greens are incensed (sic) over the idea that anything but burning fossil fuels had anything to do with ecosystem-destroying fires.
Case in point. I posted a comment on social media that Texans suffered similar losses of property (but only four deaths) from the equally historic “Bastrop” fires of 2011 and got accused of being “all about Trump” — as if Trump had been President in 2011? Nah – it means they just don’t want to hear the truth.
Now we read that “a media outlet affiliated with ISIS has been instructing the group’s radical adherents to set forest fires in the United States and Europe to cause mass ecological disasters, according to posts on an internet forum dedicated to the terror group.”
Award-winning reporter Adam Kredo posted in the Washingon Free Beacon that the Middle East Media Research Institute has flagged four posters published in the pro-ISIS Quraysh media outlet, with the first back in April 2019. It read (English translation): “Oh monotheists [followers of ISIS], ignite fires in the forests and fields, and we are addressing especially those who live in Europe and America, for they are painful to them.’”
In the fourth poster, published last October (there may be more since this article), the ISIS pals were being more specific: “Ignite fires in the forests of America, France, Britain, and Germany, for they are painful to them.” But perhaps at least one bright-eyed ISIS follower considered Australia as equally “worthy” of ecotage.
The green machine may be even hotter under the collar at a recent report by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Bettina Boxall in the Los Angeles Times. Entitled “Human-caused ignitions spark California’s worst wildfires but get little state focus,” perhaps its key sentence is most damning: “It doesn’t matter how dry the vegetation, how fierce the winds or how high the temperature; if there is no ignition, there is no wildfire.”
Noting that the 2019 California fire season was far less deadly than that in 2018, when the notorious “Camp Fire” alone took 86 human lives as it destroyed Paradise (CA). Boxall attributes the relatively mind 2019 fire season (three dead, 735 structures and 270,000 acres burned) to actions taken to shut down power to many Californians, often for days.
Boxall cites Stanford University researcher Michael Wara’s statement that the power blackouts were “likely highly effective in terms of reducing the losses associated with the fire season.” Wara, who served on the state’s Commission on Catastrophic Wildfire Cost and Recovery, testified before a Congressional committee that Pacific Gas & Electric’s inspections of wind damage to its lines and equipment made it clear that, without preventive shutdowns, “we would have had a significant number of utility-caused fires.”
Boxall found that all of California’s 20 most destructive wildfires were human-related, with half due to power line or electrical problems (including the Camp Fire and 2017’s Tubbs fire, which killed 22 people and destroyed 5,636 structures). She also reported that a study of U.S. records from 1992 to 2012 found that human activity was responsible for 84 percent of wildfires and 44 percent of area burned nationwide.
University of Colorado researcher Jennifer Balch, lead author of that study, stated that “National and regional policy efforts to mitigate wildfire-related hazards would benefit from focusing on reducing the human expansion of the fire niche.” She further stated, “We’ve forgotten the importance of human ignitions in the mix of this,” while adding [in a true cya] “I’m not saying that climate change is not important.”
The International City/County Management Association back in 2012 asserted that “bringing fire education into the schools reflects the long-held belief that the way to produce lasting results in safety attitudes and behaviors is to reach young children,” but lamented that “many jurisdictions say that public education is a priority but in fact give it little support.”
Back in 2014, the California Fire Chiefs Association reported that, “These days designated Public Educators are few and far between so the responsibility of coordinating or delivering public education programs usually comes as collateral duties under the “other duties as assigned” clause in some job descriptions. Several of our members wear multiple hats including that of inspector, public information officer, firefighter or others.”
This sounds like a wake-up call that went largely unheeded, both in California and surely in Australia, where there are multiple reports (and arrests) of juveniles for both intentional and accidental fire-starting tomfoolery.
Smokey Bear was born when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear would be the symbol for their joint effort to promote forest fire prevention. His message then and now: “Only YOU can prevent forest (or bush) fires.” In honor of his lifetime of service, the state of Oregon in 2019 created a Smokey Bear license plate.
California’s public schools tout a myriad of courses on climate change education. Cool California lists even more. Yet as long as even industry leaders like PG&E CEO Bill Johnson keep spreading the false gospel that climate change is the major cause of wildfires, the idea of personal responsibility will continue to escape the hearts and minds of today’s youth.
NOTE: My personal interest in forest fires was heightened back in 2013, when I watched in horror the story of the Fallen Nineteen – City of Prescott firefighters, member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who died combatting the lightning-ignited Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. In their memory, I hosted a benefit concert that raised money for the families of the fallen.