California Burning, Part 5: Community Fire-Hardening Needs To Be Top Priority — OpEd: In complicated times, priorities count

  • [photo from Butte County - HANGAR]

    [photo from Butte County - HANGAR]

By Bryant Baker, Los Padres ForestWatch, Dominick DellaSala, PhD, Wild Heritage and Chad Hanson, PhD, John Muir Project

Former Mt. Pinos District Ranger Tom Kuekes portrayed wildfire issues as “complicated” in Part 4 of the ongoing “California Burning” series in The Mountain Enterprise last month.

It would be hard to disagree with that. Wildfire is complicated, and it is only becoming more complicated as climate change worsens.

When he first took the job here as district ranger in 2001, Kuekes told of his concerns about how unprepared these Mountain Community towns were for a major wildfire. That is why he decided to keep his family in Bakersfield.

Before he retired, Kuekes was named Ranger of the Year. Almost 15 years have passed since then. New tools such as multi-dimensional big data with space-time pattern mining from satellite imagery have emerged to drive analysis of changing precipitation patterns and the behavior of increasingly frequent high velocity wind-driven fires and their aftermath in our state.

That data, combined with on-the-ground field surveys in fire-resilient landscapes, has led to …(please see below to view full stories and photographs)

Photo captions:

This is a glimpse of Paradise, CA, after the Camp fire passed through. The trees still stand. The homes vaporized. The death toll estimate is 86 people. Evacuation routes were blocked. Fire winds accelerated through logged-over ‘forest treatment’ areas.

Creek fire perimeter obtained from the National Interagency Fire Center (October 26, 2020). All vegetation removed project data collected from the U.S. Forest Service FACTS database and Cal Fire. Contact Bryant Baker with an questions:

Note: Darkest blue (above, in fire perimeter) is the area covered by the Creek fire in its explosive first 24-36 hours, Sept. 5-6, 2020. [See the narrative about this event on page 4]

(L-r)Dominick DellaSala, PhD, and Bryant Baker of Los Padres ForestWatch are deeply concerned about fire safety for rural towns.

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This is part of the October 30, 2020 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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