Wildfires and Global warming

The news hasn’t been good from California and the Desert Southwest — wildfire season.

globalwarmingisreal1Yosemite National Park is being threatened. The fire is massive and the still photos at this link show just how small humans are in comparison to this beast of a fire. My high school years were spent in California — and one thing that my family did together is to tent camp in Yosemite National Park. I’ve hiked the high Sierra trails above Yosemite more times than I can count.

Wildfires are happening more often, the wildfire season is starting sooner and lasting longer. Global warming is here to stay, this shift in the weather isn’t just a minor bump that we need to wait out until the climate returns to “normal”. What is happening now is the new normal.

Last winter I was in the Desert Southwest and we saw the aftermath of the 2011 fire season. Many places we had visited in 2009 had been hit by wildfires — Gilda Cliff dweller ruins — is but just one example.

Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona unless a whole lot of changes happen more wild fire firefighters are going to die.

This year one firefighting team, 19 men were killed fighting a wildfire in Arizona. The details of the men’s death are being investigated and parts of that investigation have been researched and reported by a real investigative journalist, John Dougherty , — someone who really took the time to ask questions and understand that there is a very big difference between suburban/urban structural firefighting and fighting wild fires. The difference is in the equipment and the methods used. In a long detailed article called,”The Granite Mountain Hots shots“, we learn a bit about Arizona politics and doing things on the cheap. We learn how this hotshot team was loaned to other jurisdictions which earned money for their town. The headline reads: Yarnell Hill Fire: The Granite Mountain Hotshots Never Should’ve Been Deployed, Mounting Evidence Shows. There was an earlier report from Meteorologists who were monitoring the Yarnell Hill fire who would have advised against deploying the firefighters but the people in charge didn’t request a consult from the US Weather Service.

There’s a profound difference between fighting wildfires with chainsaws and shovels and riding firetrucks to rescue burning buildings, then blasting water on flames.

Hotshots clear fire breaks with chainsaws, shovel dirt to put out fires, and often start fires to burn out fuel — fighting fire with fire. Their primary focus is bringing wildfires under control, not providing protection for homes and structures.

. . . .

Arizona is “always looking to save money by going cheap,” says Olson, who also worked for four years as a dispatcher in the Santa Fe National Forest, managing resources to fight wildfires. “Sometimes the fire gets away from you and becomes a big monster, putting firefighters at risk.”

Based on the latest federal estimate, the Yarnell Hill “monster” cost $5.45 million to put down.

Here’s a reference to the two fight fighting strategies which seems to be at the heart of what went wrong and why 19 firefighters died:

Olson fears the philosophy of structural firefighters that advocates protecting homes and property distorted the judgment of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, causing them to ignore fundamental principles of wildland firefighting during an extremely stressful situation.

The trigger point, Olson suggests, came when the crew learned that Yarnell was under mandatory evacuation. Dispatch records show the evacuation order was issued about 3:40 p.m. An hour later, the Granite Mountain crew found itself trapped in the box canyon.

“There is absolutely no other explanation that I can come up with, no matter how much I think about it, except that their priority mission was to protect structures,” Olson says. “That may be what structural firefighters do, but there should be no way in hell that is what wildland firefighters do, especially when they are on foot and carrying hand tools.” (bolding mine)

Here’s the bit about the city’s disrespect for the firefighters — in regards to pay other details — the whole article needs to be read to understand the political games these Arizona bureaucrats are playing which may have contributed to the death of 19 firefighters.

Like all hotshot crew members, Granite Mountain’s were required to complete at least 40 hours of annual training and meet minimum experience and employment standards. Otherwise, the crew could not be cleared as a certified hotshot squad to fight wildfires each year. Among these standards is that each crew must have at least seven members in “permanent/career” positions.

 Granite Mountain failed to meet this standard because the Prescott City Council voted to eliminate two full-time positions in 2012. This left the Granite Mountain Hotshots with six permanent/career employees. Nevertheless, the Prescott Fire Department submitted a certification “checklist” to the interagency command center in Albuquerque in April stating that the Granite Mountain Hotshots had the requisite seven permanent/career employees.

According to the article the firefighters made about $15 an hour with few if any benefits. The firefighters were loaned to other jurisdictions and the city made money off of the deal.

It will always be the guys on the ground who pay the ultimate price for poor decisions of management — and it the management who will find excuses and reasons why they shouldn’t be held responsible. This seems to be part of human nature. This bit of BS is beyond stupid:

Willis continues, “It was just one of those things that happened. You can call it an accident. I just say that God had a different plan for that crew at this time.”

The first page of the story about the Yarnell Hill fire was disgusting — because must not really care about the dead firefighters — the families left behind are not being treated well by these “Christians” and “men of faith”. When it comes to compassion for the families — read this article. Or this article.

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