October 01, 2015

Western wildfires, firsthand

Having coming from California, and firsthand through some smaller wildfires, and ground zero for fighting a biggie, the Rough, I have a new appreciation for the work and cost.

The Rough Fire had a 50-acre command and living center. No, that's not hyperbole.

I was able to leave Sequoia National Park the first night the northern entrance-exit, via Fresno, reopened. Kings Canyon National Park, including the General Grant Grove, remained closed. (I had hoped to go hiking in the actual Kings Canyon portion of the park, but that remained very closed.)

About halfway to Fresno, I drove through the command center for fighting the Rough Fire. It was a vast sprawl of tents (firefighters live in them, and they're usually sleeping in shifts), gear and equipment, vehicles — both personal to drive to a fire site and official firefighting vehicles, supply vehicles for food, fuel, additional firefighting gear and clothes, etc., and more.

And, for the hundreds, even thousands, of actual firefighters and support that are involved with suppression of a Western wildfire that big, it takes 40-50 acres to hold them all.

And, that whole area smelled like a massive barbecue restaurant.

Carpenter ants in Yosemite/Steve Snyder
Later, in Yosemite, the Butte Fire was more knocked down, and I didn't come across too much in the way of smoke problems from it. The Tenaya Fire didn't affect Upper Yosemite too much. But, the National Park Service had a couple of lightning-started fires it had already controlled, and was managing them, as a burn tool, rather than killing them. The carpenter ants at left are grubbing through the Yosemite Fire, near the top of what is putatively Yosemite Creek, but was pretty much dry as a bone. (One pothole a mile east, in the drainage of what NPS maps show as a Yosemite tributary, had a bucket or two of water.)

And, as anybody who follows the West knows, our federal firefighting budget in western lands has skyrocketed. And, they know why. Climate change.

Screw the deniers. And screw the Associated Press who now says it's officially impolite to call them deniers.

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