Forest management not to blame for California wildfires

Published: November 13, 2018

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Increased wildfires across the west coast of the United States and Canada, and other regions, are caused by both man and nature. California is currently being engulfed by huge wildfires during its busiest season ever, with 34 blazes in this quarter alone. In Canada, British Columbia suffered a successive record wildfire season in 2018.

Experts say humans must front most of the blame for creating climate change conditions that kills and dries vegetation, adding fuel to fires. However, natural winds in the region are helping the fires to spread further, more quickly, and cause more damage.

“Natural factors and human-caused global warming effects fatally collude” in these fires, said wildfire expert Kristen Thornicke of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

University of Utah fire scientist Philip Dennison believe forest management is not the cause of the severity of fires. That opinion contrasts President Donald Trump, who tweeted on Saturday the blame for the fires is because of poor forestry management:

“There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests.”

Dennison disagrees with Trump on a basis of logic. He points out that most of the land burning is shrub land and not forest.

“It’s not about forest management. These aren’t forests,” he said.

29 have died in the Northern California town of Paradise, one of the worst hit areas, with 31 dead across California. The death toll already surpasses the deadliest single blaze in California history and wildfires are still burning and causing huge damage to infrastructure and properties.

“The biggest factor was wind,” Dennison said in an email to Canadian Underwriter. “With wind speeds as high as they were, there was nothing firefighters could do to stop the advance of the fires.”