By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Tony Morris, who runs the Wild Fire Research Network and Web site, is deeply worried. He points to France, where a fleet of 12 Bombardier CL 415s that can fly in winds of up to 50 mph are able to stop big fires, and helped to save Marseille in 1998. Two of the aircraft are stationed at Van Nuys Airport from September 1 through the end of November.
“The real problem in this country is that we don’t have enough firefighting aircraft,” Morris says.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs released its second Quadrennial Fire Review this year, which notes that fires, whether set by arsonists or touched off by lightning or downed power lines — three common causes — are wiping out more and more territory. In the 1990s the average acreage blackened annually was 3.78 million acres. This decade, that annual average jumped to 7.15 million acres.
In 2000, the USDA Forrest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior devoted $2 billion to the National Fire Plan. One of the NFP’s primary goals is to reduce the amount of brush, trees and naturally occurring fuels through planned burns or thinning. But a recent report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that while rangers and land managers have been very active to that end, of 44,000 acres burned or thinned in the West from 2004 to 2008, only 11 percent were located in areas where the most dangerous fires break out. Even more disconcerting is that this poor prioritizing was the fault of the stewards of federal, state and local land. The vast majority of land in the wild land-urban interface is privately owned.
“We don’t have good policy tools and regulation to force landowners to use proper building materials and clear vegetation,” says the study’s co-author Cara Nelson.
Trentham of the Cherokee Hot Shots stands up, ready for his next shift a few days before crews finally contained most of the Station fire. “The wind can be your best friend and it can also be your worst enemy.”
But it wasn’t the wind that drove the Station fire. An accumulation of fuel and a lack of humidity killed the success of an initial air attack some residents found woefully insufficient.
Now, Southern California is approaching the season of Santa Ana winds, and fire crews are hoping their luck will hold.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city