It’s been the craziest road trip to visit elderly parents in California ever! Trip started on the same day as the fire… My 84 year old mom lives about 75 miles south of the Camp Fire and my 85 years dad lives in wine country in Calistoga. I finally made it up past Mt. Shasta on my way home and finally out of the relentless smoke, some of the worse smoke I’ve ever seen or been forced to breathe.
Only 5 years ago I’d make this 700 miles one-way drive and obsessively study the forests along the 1-5 because forest recovery and all the good that happens when forest are left alone and allowed to grow big enough to be relatively fireproof is something I dream and pray for often. There’s tens of thousands of stands of trees on this route that I’ve been studying since the mid 1990’s.
But in the past 5 years the drive has turned into never-ending catastrophic fire recovery areas at almost every turn. Around the edges in mosaics many trees survive these fires and it’s the healthiest thing that can happen to them. I’ve never seen trees grow faster, never seen vegetation recover so rapidly and with such abundant diversity… But in all the places that were at the core of all these megafires, it’s a moonscape… There’s no words that can describe what I remembered compared to what is now.
The one fire from last September that shut down I-5 for a week between Mt. Shasta and Redding is now near 20 minutes of driving at freeway speeds with salvage logging operations on every hillside and endless heavy equipment doing huge roadside excavations and massive seed spraying to protect the highway from winter rains… Giant mountains of wood chips from all the deadwood, long lines of trucks hauling woodchips, heavy equipment wherever you look. Not anything green anywhere.
The most fireproof forest is mature close-canopy old growth with a sparse understory canopy and lots of large woody debris and standing snags that hold tons of water even in the driest of Summers… In the PNW 70% of forestland west of the cascades consisted of this vegetation type prior to the trappers showing up in the early 19th century when they tried and mostly failed to set it all on fire to make their hunting easier…
But today there’s only a tiny fraction of a percent of this forest type on the landscape. The forests we’ve grown up with in this era are the exact opposite of fire resistant. So when all the loggers who never stop looting and pillaging the lungs of our earth yet again blame these fires on”fuel buildup” and “fire suppression” rather then themselves and their own clueless mismanagement, please understand their messaging as a bunch of sick gaslighting bullshit.
The most fireproof trees are always the ones that are highest priority for cutting down because they’re the most profitable. And after 150 years, we have a landscape composed of young tree-farms that can’t survive wildfires. So if anyone tells you the fire suppression story tell them to STFU!
The town of paradise usually has 5″ of rain by this time of year, but still not a drop… Add to that the seasonal winds blowing in from the northeast, which get there start in the deserts of Nevada and Eastern Oregon travel across a Sierra Nevada mountain range that was once heavily forested, which helped to cool, calm and moisten the air. But those days are long gone. These days those same winds blow in over never-ending clearcuts of industrial forestland and become super heated, and increase in velocity. The same effect as a many miles wide blow torch soon as there’s a spark.
If we’re actually gonna one day honestly address our climate issues, we need to hold the people most responsible for 150 years deforestation accountable and seize there land under eminent domain and set to work growing a diversity of permanent mature fire resistant trees again.
Currently, everyone is blaming the Camp Fire on the power company, because the high winds snapped a powerline that started a fire. The day before the Camp Fire started, the power company sent out a press release that said their new program of shutting off power to everyone during times of high winds and high fire risk was being suspended do to so many complaints and threats of litigation.
Anyways, that my version of WTF… This landscape of the PNW is where the world’s tallest trees used to grow. It’s a landscape that can absorb more carbon and lock it up for more centuries than any other landscape in the world.
May our efforts as activists, one day ensure future generations will see that resilient truth thriving on the land again.
Be well, Deane