How do we fight super wildfires?

How do we fight super wildfires?

“It is no longer just a rural issue.”

With western wildfires growing in size and destroying more homes, farms and businesses, there is a need for new tools and approaches. The infernos are spreading so fast they are outstripping our ability to fight them in traditional ways.

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last November: “Over the course of just a few weeks, a major fire can pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than California’s many climate change programs can save in 12 months. Scientists debate whether California’s vast forests are emitting more carbon dioxide through fires than they absorb through plant growth.”

Last year, wildfires nationwide consumed 12,550 square miles, an area larger than Maryland. The federal government spent more than $2.7 billion on firefighting — a record that far surpassed the previous high point of $2.1 billion set in 2016.

In California last year, nearly 8,400 homes and structures were destroyed, killing at least 45 people including two firefighters. Estimates suggest that the final state toll will be over $13 billion. Wildfires swept into heavily populated areas and accelerated so rapidly that residents barely had time to pack up and leave.

Those economic damages do not include the continued revenue losses to local merchants in rural fire impacted areas. For example, businesses in the Columbia River Gorge are stilling feeling the effects of the 48,000 acre fire last summer because many of the popular hiking trails are too dangerous to open.

One new tool is the converted jumbo jet. During the height of the Montana wildfires last summer, a DC-10 tanker was based at Helena’s regional airport and loaded with 10,000 gallons of retardant for each mission.

Now there is a 747 modified tanker which helped to douse fires in Chile and Israel. It has FAA certification, but needs U.S. Forest Service approval.

Last May, the agency said it would only give contracts to planes with a dispensing capacity of 3,000 to 5,000 gallons. The 747’s capacity is 19,000 gallons.

However, CalFire decided to use the 747 when massive fires burnt out of control near heavily populated areas surrounding San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Along with climate change, preventing and stopping mammoth wildfire is gathering lots of attention in Congress these days.

It is no longer just a rural issue. Dense choking smoke covered Seattle and Portland again last summer. It is not only an immediate health hazard to people and pets but add to greenhouse gases to our atmosphere.

People in cities are beginning to see the fire damage which increasingly threatens to clog our streams, rivers and lakes. Barren slopes are susceptible to erosion from heavy rains and rapidly melting snow.

Elected officials are revisiting the benefits of forest management tools such as logging, thinning, planting and forest roads. Some objectionable past practices are worth reconsidering. For example, planting trees on narrow shelves cut into the steep hillside can allow young seedlings to receive much needed moisture and slow erosion.

We cannot eradicate wildfires. They have been part of our ecology for thousands of year. When forests are tinder dry and strong hot winds blow, conditions are ripe for an extreme fire season such as in 2017.

We’ve learned a great deal about wildfires since the 1930s when we would send crews into remote on horseback with accompanying mule trains to fight fires. We now have an armada of aerial tankers available.

We also know a lot more about managing our forests. Hopefully, we can deploy our best eco-tools to help cleanse our air and water, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and to convert C02 into life-giving oxygen. That means we need to think outside the box.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He recently retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Business

Garlic Naan, Paneer Kebab, Biryani Chicken and Bhindi Masala from Rice-N-Curry (Photo by Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)
Downtown Renton’s Rice-N-Curry serves comforting Indian dishes made with care

Owner Gurminder Kaur said she learned the recipes from her mother.

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
News of market volatility has felt like a pinball machine lately | Guest column

Webster’s dictionary defines the word volatility as “characterized by or subject to… Continue reading

tsr
Dick’s Drive-In to open new location in Federal Way

This will be Dick’s ninth burger restaurant; plans to open in 2023.

Kinwell clinic lobby in Renton (Courtesy of Kinwell Medical Group)
Kinwell Medical Group opens new clinic at The Landing in Renton

Kinwell clinics offer in-person and telehealth visits, online appointment scheduling, and they tout reduced wait times.

A chicken sandwich from Yummy Meats Deli (Photo by Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)
Here’s a Szechuan-style take on Nashville hot fried chicken

Why a literal hole-in-the-wall chicken joint is worth the trip to Renton.

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
Volatility and disciplined planning in 2022’s stock market | Guest column

The stock market in January experienced significantly increased volatility. In the first… Continue reading

Menchie’s location in Federal Way. (Photo by Cameron Sheppard/Sound Publishing)
Investigation: Menchie’s locations failed to pay workers, stole tips

Multiple King County locations involved, including Federal Way, Bellevue and two Renton shops.

Snoqualmie Casino. Courtesy photo
Kirkland-based company sues to challenge ‘tribal gaming monopoly’ in Washington

Company called the state’s policy an “erroneous application of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
The forces behind our current COVID-induced inflation | Guest column

Recent inflation numbers have been quite high and at levels not seen… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
The ‘year end’ elements of financial planning | Guest column

With the end of the year fast approaching, we remind clients that… Continue reading

Robert Toomey, CFA/CFP, is Vice President of Research for S. R. Schill & Associates on Mercer Island.
How financial planners address plan uncertainty | Guest column

One of the key challenges we face as financial planners is dealing… Continue reading