Op-Ed: Wildfires have changed. Firefighting hasn’t

This year, both Colorado and New Mexico witnessed the most devastating wildfire in the history of their state. Colorado Marshall Fire consumed nearly 1,100 homes in Boulder County. When the roofs and lawns were regularly covered with snow, the drought made the region dry and vulnerable. Wrong winds also contributed to the New Mexico Hermets peak fire. In the Santa Fe National Forest, a fire was created to clear congested trees and dense brushes. It was prepared in early April when fire and fuel specialists expected low temperatures and high humidity. But as the winds blew beyond the project range, the blaze combined with neighboring fires and became mega-fire, eventually burning more than 300,000 hectares and forcing a evacuation storm.

Such events show very different conditions on the ground. A recent study found that 1 in 6 Americans is now at risk of developing a “severe” fire. A number of factors, including hot weather and landscaping, greatly increase our exposure to wildfires. This needs to be re-examined.

Together, the causes of disasters are creating emergencies that are not always able to be managed or suppressed. The torrential downpour of New Mexico reached 80 per hour. Marshall speeds are 115 miles per hour. That is like a Category 3 hurricane.

In an interview with NPR, Blander Durland Fire Chief Brian Oliver likened the futility of fighting some wildfires to “trying to fight hurricanes.” I came across this strange comparison many times in interviews with wild land firefighters. Annoyed by the pressure to deal with a changed fire, one of them said to me: We do not come out of the whirlwind while trying to turn around.

Storms and wildfires feed on temperature, wind speed, atmospheric pressure, and humidity levels. We let the hurricanes run, knowing that we cannot change direction, speed, or force. But we are actively fighting wildfires by deploying unpaid emergency workers, bulldozers, air tanks and other brutal suppression resources. For many wildfire specialists, it sometimes makes more sense to get out of the way.

Fire hazards have changed, but the public did not expect an emergency response.

The idea of ​​fighting, stopping, or changing the metaphor of the early 20th century, during the evolution of firefighting practices, was partly to protect the financial value of large trees. A.D. In 1935, all reported forest fires had to be controlled, controlled or extinguished by 10 a.m. the next day (known as the “10 am rule”, which no longer applies). After World War II, the war on fire was prompted by the availability of military surplus vehicles, firefighting aircraft, and improved road access.

Early fire behavior models focused on controlled wildfires; Before they could fully understand the nature of the fire, suffocation took root. They have worked on such practices for some time. The U.S. Forest Service, the largest employer of wildlife firefighters, reported 98% initial attack success. However, before the advent of repressive technologies in the early 20th century, the success rate of the first attack was approximately the same (97%). According to wildfire scientist Mark Finny, the success rate at that time was due to the fact that “Native Americans did not store fuel because of the thousands of years of active wildfires.” As a result, the flames burn low-strength and low to the ground, “making the initial attack 97% easier” and safer to manage.

Over time, the war on wildfires strengthened the enemy, as successful crushing leaves more and more fuel for larger fires. Success Creates Other Dangers A fire manager told me, “We are now chasing firefighters.

This begs the question: Which fires really need to be fought?

Firefighters who burn in relatively safe conditions to participate. But fires in such situations are declining. More than 100,000 acres of wildfires are now so common that the National Engineering Fire Center “ceases to be a special event.

Their movement in the woods or in the suburbs raises the preconceived notion of which areas are most vulnerable to fire in the US. Many Americans still want to think about clear boundaries between fire-safe and fire-prone areas and fund additional firefighting resources to prevent fires, but fires routinely overpower oil breaks and fire brands cross over to highways and find their way through. New fires in remote communities. According to Marshall Fire, any community “may be vulnerable to wind-infested grasslands,” according to the mayor of Colorado.

“Our brain fire models are not really relevant to what is happening,” said Jack Cohen, a retired U.S. forest service fire research scientist. Fires are best seen not as apocalyptic or inevitable, but as a coincidence where they burn. Can. Constant fossil fuel-burning and wishful thinking are opening up new avenues for fire. We must maintain these physics while supporting disaster reduction in the most vulnerable communities.

If we knew that a wildfire was like a hurricane, we would leave as the fire approached, and then we would clean it and rebuild it. But in the jungles and in the densely populated suburbs, we have the old hope of fighting fires wherever they want. Although protecting homes is not required to be part of the US Forest Service mission. I was reminded of a former Wildland firefighter, “Firefighters have become more and more private property guards, which has angered firefighters and their agencies.

His anger seems justified. In the world we have created, wherever we allow fuel to be stored, that fuel goes out of the purse, the garbage can, or the wildfire. Firefighters cannot change any army, and they should not sacrifice themselves by trying.

Adrianana Petrina, professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of a recent book entitled “Adrian’s Work on the Edge of Knowledge in the Age of Runaway Climate Change.”

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