CALIFORNIA IS AT WAR!

By JOHN M. DERBY
Times Founding Publisher
July 26, 2018

Our state is in a Fire War — as surely as there are a half million men and women on the battle line fighting for us in the forests surrounding our state. And these brave heroes are outgunned by nature, and surrounded by the flames.

It’s a war we can’t win. We can only cut down on the losses.

We are totally unprepared. Every so-called Fire Season, we know the war will come. We may not know where and when. But we know it’s coming, yet somehow we are never prepared for it.

Actually for years, this state has done everything possible to create its own fire storm because of its poor forest management.

Instead of having an aggressive tree and undergrowth management program, California has allowed the state’s forests to become a tinder box, ready to explode at the first lighted match.

As of this writing, the Carr Fire outside of Redding has taken the lives of six people, left at least 19 missing, forced 40,000 to flee for their lives, and consumed 113,000 acres — and its 33 percent contained. It’s the 7th most destructive in state history, and has destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Closer to home, near El Portal, the Ferguson Fire has burned nearly 63,000 acres while killing two fire fighters, and injuring almost a dozen. This fire is supposedly 39 percent contained, however, a change in the wind could take it right into Yosemite Valley, which remains closed through Sunday due to severely bad air quality.

After about 16 days of fire in California, the Federal Government finally called it a national emergency. Actually, much of the land belongs to the federal government.

We feel that one of the biggest mistakes in handling forest fires in California is not having enough manpower and equipment ready for Immediate Response. Fires are simply allowed to get too large before bringing out the big guns.

There are also not enough “big guns,” and by this we mean early-strike, Super Air Fire Tankers and Fire Helicopters. These are essential in fighting the kind of forest fires we are dealing with now. The terrain makes it almost impossible to get men and other kinds of equipment to the fire lines.

We have also pushed to having Castle Airport used as a central fire command center for the Air Tankers and Fire helicopters. It is a perfect location, right in the center of California. It has one of the longest runways in the state and it is practically unused.

Right now there are three DC-10 Air Tankers stationed at Castle and another eight Fire Helicopters, but this is just faction of what is needed. Ten times that amount would not be out of order!

There would be state legislators yelling about the high cost, however, look at the billions being spent on forest fires this year and in the past. Look at the loss in homes and environment.

Fire Season is the new normal in the Golden State — threatening lives, livelihoods, homes and essential services. It darkens our summer fun and tourism potential, and creates miserable air quality conditions in the already scorching hot Central Valley.

We believe that overall manpower could be cut back and replaced with better immediate response teams that could save the state millions of dollars. Mountain home owners need to be a part of the solution too. Since their houses and livelihood are at stake, more effort in clearing brush and undergrowth would certainly help.

Finally, the state needs to look at the Forest Fires as an ongoing war which needs to be fought all year long, year after year, not just when the summer’s high fire season hits.

Using Castle as a Air Fire Command Post just makes sense.


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