We Asked the State's Top Wildfire-Fighting Official: Are Smoky Summers the New Normal?

Comments

1

Good article, informative.

2

Excellent interview. I appreciate you were able to dive into some of the details. Do we know if BC will have a similar plan?

3

Love the Franz.

4

Bless you and thank you, Eli Sanders and Hillary Franz for a well written and informative article, and providing answers to a lot of questions many of us have concerning our region. I'm with Matt: here's hoping that B.C. has a similar plan for maintaining forest health, reducing the risk of wildfires.

5

"...85 percent of our fires this year alone have been caused by humans."

85% caused by humans. Meaning fires would be 15% of what they are if humans didn't start them. Yet climate change is need as #1 on the list of 3.

Climate change is happening. But it appears in this case what we are dealing with 85% of the time is humans starting fires.

Considering 15% of the fires are natural fires. Fires have happened historically. How do we determine what percentage of these fires is climate change related? Is it 5%, 7%?

I got the sense in the interviewers agenda of pushing climate change got in the way of really getting down to the root of the issue of this smoke around here thats so thick at times it blocks out much of the sun.

6

@5 Humans wouldn't have been able to set many of those fires if we hadn't had drought conditions. I think she addressed that pretty clearly in the article.

7

Thanks, it's helpful to have the perspective from government officials as well as scientists. Once you've studied it, you need people who are going to Do Something about it.

Might not be fair to ask her to weigh in on paleoclimatology, though. She's not a trained scientist, but an experienced administrator dealing with the here and now-- as demonstrated by the grace with which she sidestepped those questions.

8

@6 She addressed it very clearly. Natural occurring fires make up 15% of fires. Since when does climate change include humans starting fires that get out of control?

9

@8 are you really that stupid?

10

@9 yes

11

Forest Health Crisis is my new band. We're going to be opening for Bonobo, and also Orca Tribe, later this summer at PsiloFest.

Props to H. Franz in trying to encourage greater health and resiliency of the forests. I really wonder how much it can counter-act the much larger bioregional changes happening... with plant and insect ranges moving ever northwards, drought-stressed trees succumbing to increased insect attack, & hotter,drier weather generally.

Maybe our PNW will not be so lush in the near future. :>(

@8 - Dude, read it again, maybe with less spin this time.

12

An intelligent administrator! So pleasing. Great article, Eli.

13

When the larger NW is engulfed in flames every summer, I often wonder if I should drop my current career and pick up a shovel or similar tool, to do something very direct to help with climate change. It's hard for me to see anything so pressing as that, and it feels like there's very little an individual can do. This article does give me some hope though, that Franz and other knowledgeable, capable folks are working toward solutions.

@9: He has proven on lots of occasions that he is, yes. (Or trolling. Either way, best ignored.)

14

Holy hell.
How much shit can there be left to burn after the last two summers?
(sigh.)

15

@13

Well, you could unplug your refrigerator, scrap your car, line-dry your laundry, turn your thermostat down to 55F in the winter, boycott businesses using air conditioning, get a vasectomy/tubal ligation, go vegan if you haven't already, swear off air travel, and then -- this is the most important part -- spend your free time going door-to-door throughout your city encouraging everyone else to do the same.

Or if that seems like a little too much, maybe just bitch about Capitalism in some blogs-comments instead.

16

@14 The Earth is a big flat rock. Trust me, there's a lot of potential for burning.

@9 You are that stupid.

@11 This is the no-spin zone. The straight dope.

85% of the PNW is burning because humans start fires, not because nature started them.

17

Fucking exploding targets! Just when you thought gun culture couldn't get any sicker. It isn't just rednecks burning trash without realizing how dry it is. Why are they even still burning anything? Maybe because they only pay attention to media and politicians who deny climate change?

@15 Classic. Don't want to sound like a rube who still denies man made climate change, but still want to mansplain everything in a way keeps the status quo and doesn't obligate you do change one thing about your perfect life. So you set the bar for doing anything to help as absurdly high as possible, and shrug, "why bother?" How convenient.

@16 The proud no spin zone. "WE’LL DO IT LIVE! FUCK IT! WE’LL DO IT LIVE! I CAN – I’LL WRITE IT AND WE’LL DO IT LIVE! FUCKIN THING SUCKS!" Hilarious.

18

More GREAT Work, Eli!
Thanks!

19

@17

"Why are they even still burning anything?"

Because they still have brush they want to dispose of, and they've done it dozens or even hundreds of times before without checking with the State first, and nothing has ever gone wrong before, and after a hundred years of increasing urbanization there's not much left of the rural communities where you might pick up a story about old Rick's burn getting away from him last fall, and you know he's cautious to a fault, and a teetotaler too.

It's not like farmers and ranchers don't know we're having a hot, dry summer.

It's sad and it's preventable, but it's also pretty easy to see how it can still happen, if you expend just an ounce of empathy in the effort.

20

@16: Um Franz says in the article, and I quote:
"I'll tell you, there are three things right now that are leading to this fire season being more significant and more challenging.

NUMBER ONE, WE OBVIOUSLY HAVE A CHANGING CLIMATE. We have 96 percent of our state in a drought. We've had 60-plus days in just Western Washington that have not brought rain or any moisture. We had May with the driest month on record. I can go through a number of these records that we're facing, this year alone, on a changing climate. As a result, the forest is drying out much faster and for longer periods of time. So all it takes is one spark, whether it's lightning, or whether it's a human cause."

Soooo yes, you really are that dumb.

21

@20

Ignition does matter, it's like the old song says-- can't start a fire without a spark.

But then, human sources of ignition haven't changed much in the past two years, or twenty. What's different these past couple of years is drought, the same factor that drove the largest wildfire in US history-- the Great Fire of 1910.

The primary factor for drought isn't "global warming," either, though it does make a small contribution. There were plenty of severe droughts throughout the world before the industrial revolution and the advent of fossil fuels and CO2 buildup. Ancient people abandoned entire cities in what are now the deserts of the Middle East and the American Southwest, because their climates changed-- thousands of years before CO2 levels began to rise.

PDO and ENSO cycles are the biggest determinants of rainfall in our region, though you can still have a wet year in a dry cycle, or vice versa-- the 1910 drought was in the middle of an unusually wet PDO-driven period called "the 20th century pluvial."

Global warming is undeniably real, and it is having well-verified effects like sea level rise and glacial retreat and ocean acidification, but it is at best weakly linked to wildfires or winter storms.

We're still going to fuck ourselves up real good with the global warming we've set in motion, of course. A lot of cities and a lot more farms are going to be drowned. The people living in those cities are going to migrate, not just slip under the waves. And wherever they go, there probably won't be enough food for them.

I half suspect we obsess over attributing fires and storms to global warming mainly as a way to avoid thinking about the tides.

22

@robotslave Youre funny. A person with 3000 comments just on this website, complaining about people complaining online. Also, you do realize that all of those things could be powered by green energy right? of course you do, youre just a troll in sheeps clothing.

23

@22

Sure, just keep building those wind farms. Nobody will ever need to change their behavior, we can build infinitely many turbines and solar cells and hydro and geothermal plants, or at least enough to replace all of the fossil energy we're using now, plus what the world will need once everybody in it has a clothes dryer and a refrigerator and a car and two and a half kids and air-conditioned shops and meat with every meal and tickets to Hawaii.

Or at least post a blogs-comment suggesting it, and making fun of people who post blog-comments making fun of people who post blog-comments instead of doing anything useful. Boy howdy that one really gets the job done every time, doesn't it?

24

@16 - You are mainlining straight dope? That certainly explains some things! :D