Agency ignores the wind-driven fires
that cause the greatest loss of life and property
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Fire safety experts and environmental protection advocates filed suit today (January 28, 2020) to block a state wide plan targeting a quarter million acres of habitat per year for clearance under the guise of fire protection. Through the use of herbicides, grinding machines, unnatural fire, and soil disturbance, Cal Fire plans to clear vast areas of important carbon absorbing habitat already threatened by climate change.
While large, high-intensity wildfires are inevitable in California, the destruction of our communities is not. Extensive scientific research clearly indicates that the best way to protect lives, property, and the natural environment from wildfire is through a comprehensive approach that focuses on community and regional planning, reducing ignitability of structures, and modifying vegetation within and directly around communities at risk.
By focusing exclusively on clearing habitat across the landscape, Cal Fire is NOT addressing the main causes for loss of life and property from wildland fire – flammable homes placed on flammable terrain.
Despite the fact that 87% of the destruction of homes in 2017 and 2018 was caused by only six wind-driven wildfires (out of a total of approximately 16,000 fires), Cal Fire is doubling down on its failed strategy of focusing on wildland fires that pose the least risk.
“The VTP is a massive taxpayer boondoggle,” said Dan Silver, Director of the Endangered Habitats League, “as it wastes hundreds of millions of dollars on ineffective measures.”
The lawsuit challenges the California Vegetation Treatment Program. Among other things, the lawsuit alleges the Program is misguided in utilizing the same techniques that have not worked in the past, and that in fact create conditions that increase the rate of fire movement, facilitate the spread of embers, and allow for increased wind speeds, all of which endanger homes and communities.
“The EIR failed to adequately analyze impacts to human health, community protection, air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Everett DeLano, the attorney representing the groups that filed the lawsuit. “The Program also illegally limits protections to coastal chaparral and fails to protect inland and forest chaparral. The lawsuit asks that the agencies go back and do that analysis, and also consider alternative measures that would be less harmful to the environment and human health, and would be more effective in preventing fires.”
The California Chaparral Institute, Endangered Habitats League, and many others are calling on Governor Newsom, the California Board of Forestry, and Cal Fire to retract their proposal and work collaboratively with all interested parties to create a comprehensive wildfire risk reduction program that will actually protect lives and property from the fires that cause all the damage, reduce fire suppression costs, reduce carbon in the atmosphere, and protect fragile, native habitats already threatened by climate change.
Additional details on the Cal Fire habitat clearance plan can be found here.
California Chaparral Institute is a non-profit research and educational organization dedicated to the preservation of California’s native chaparral ecosystem, helping communities adapt to the fire-prone environments in which they live, and improving the physical and mental health of individuals through reconnections with Nature.
Endangered Habitats League is a is a tax-exempt non-profit California corporation dedicated to the conservation of native ecosystems and to sustainable land use and transportation planning. Since 1991, EHL has engaged in planning partnerships across Southern California and worked to create habitat preserve systems, whose ecosystem functions are threatened by Program approval.
The law firm of DeLano & DeLano specializes in land use and environmental law, with a commitment to preserving and protecting communities and the natural environment.
In general, I agree with your premise. Most, but not all of these Mega-fires originate in relative rural areas and are human caused. I live in a rural northern Kali area and I do much thinning for fuel reduction, but I realize that many, if not most people don’t have the means to thin fuels. Having said that, I think more resources should be targeted on where these fires originate and not wholesale elimination of fuels and thus, COS sink. My point is: I think a more pointed approach would accomplish more from the source. Also, as a young man, I used to log and if you think that was bad, compare it to the fires we have. Just a thought.
Thanks for your thoughts on this John. Regarding logging, what we are finding is that post logged sites, and especially those that have replanted, pose a greater fire threat than wildlands.
Because of logging slash and/or dense concentrations of trees. Tree plantations are often the sites of the highest severity forest fires. Also, clearing forests allows the wind to move faster, propelling embers further and faster.
Here in Northern California, we really do NOT have a “fire season”: we have a “PG&E equipment failure” season. Almost all fires in northern Cali for the last several years have been caused by their faulty, antiquated, and fragile equipment. ( PG&E equipment possibly involved in 400+ fires
If California is serious about fire safety, rather than killing our forests, it would be far more efficacious to get rid of PG&E altogether, and change the building regs for ALL homes to be fire-resistant. I am watching homes rebuilt in burned areas of Sonoma County, and they are exactly what burned so well before! Plus, as fires start, PG&E is turning off all power, so rural areas have NO WATER with which to protect themselves.
Time to stop relying on a corporation for public safety! As long as many billions must be spent, rather than upgrading 19th century systems, we need 21st century solutions: spend the $$ on small, localized solar/wind systems. I think we need to look forward, not try to fix broken, outmoded technologies. Let PG&E go the way of the dinosaurs.
PG&E is turning California into a third world country.
Well said, Jane.
The disjointed messages are the thing (well, one of may things related to our treatment of nature) that bothers me. On one hand this ‘Declaration’ is trumpeted by Governor Brown and on the other I watch 600 acres in just my own small town razed to dirt and sprayed with herbicides from a garden hose day after day ostensibly to stop a wildfire that may or may not happen. Personally, I find it heartbreaking. https://www.californiabiodiversityinitiative.org/pdf/california-biodiversity-charter-2.pdf