If you tell a lie enough, some may even believe it

Editor’s note:  This piece comes to us from NWAF! member Robin Stanley.

Joseph Goebbels (http://www.HolocaustResearchProject.org) wrote,  “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”   I am afraid this is what is happening in our national forest management debate.  I cannot understand for the life of me how people can say weather and not fuel is underpinning our catastrophic fire issue.  Our science books, for the past 50 years, have said fire requires heat, oxygen and fuel.  Yet some people profess that fuel is not the issue.  Instead it is the weather.  This argument is ridiculous for the following reasons.

First, I can have fire under any conditions.  I can have fire on a blow torch under water.  I can think of no condition where I cannot have fire.  I can have a bon fire in a pouring down rainstorm if I can get the wood hot enough to burn.  While I do not profess to be a scientist, what science I do know tells me that while weather plays a huge factor, the only thing weather really does is to modify the fuel so it either can or cannot reach a combustible temperature.  But the wood is still the fuel.  Without the fuel, we would have no fire and weather becomes irrelevant. If there is enough fuel and enough heat, there is fire and again, weather becomes irrelevant. For anyone to suggest that weather is the problem and not the fuel boggles my mind.

Secondly, even if one were to mistakenly believe that weather is the culprit, what can we do about it?  I guess we can wait for global climate change to reverse cycles and begin a cooler, wetter trend.  That may take a century or more so in the mean time we just watch our forests and rural communities burn.  OR maybe we try to do something about the fuel.  If we cannot control the weather, why NOT try to do something about the fuel.  I will bet you my new Acadia, that if we removed all the fuel source from our national forests, we would no longer have catastrophic fires.     

While I know that is a ridiculous statement in that we can never, nor should we ever attempt to remove ALL the fuel sources, we can lesson our exposure to catastrophic fire by decreasing the amount of fuel.  It is as simple as taking your foot off a gas pedal in a car.  Less gas, you slow down, less fuel in the woods, the fire slows down.  Don’t take no rocket scientist to figure that one out.

So in closing my challenge to the “it’s the weather” preachers is show me what you propose doing to address the catastrophic wild fire problems. Instead of just blaming the weather in order to prevent the removal of the fuel source, show us what you suggest we do to protect our forests from catastrophic fire, from water sheds being destroyed, from wild life habitat being charred and the loss of human life and property.  Instead of just blaming it on the weather (that by the way cannot even defend itself) offer an alternative to the current failed forest management practices.  I am very anxious to hear what your real alternatives are.

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3 Responses to If you tell a lie enough, some may even believe it

  1. Dawn wiksten says:

    Bravo Robin! !

  2. 2ndLaw says:

    … [D]rying of fuels is the primary mechanism for large WFAB [Wild fire area burned] in the higher-elevation and northern mountainous ecoprovinces. Wild fire area burned in these ecoprovinces thus appears to be limited by climate rather than fuel availability, …

    Our analyses indicate that year-of-fire climate is the strongest influence on area burned in forested ecosystems, but fire size may be limited secondarily by fuel continuity between or within forest stands (Rollins et al. 2002). For example, continuity may be less limiting for fire regimes in which crown fires are the dominant mechanism than in lower-elevation forests characterized by surface fires, …

    Climate controls on the area burned by wildfire in the western United States are strong, even during the dominant period of fire suppression and exclusion in the last two-thirds of the 20th century. Roughly 39% (1916–2003) to 64% (1977–2003) of the fire area burned can be related directly to climate. The variance explained by climate implies that fuel treatments, for example, might be tailored to specific ecosystems and climate–fire relationships. Recognizing that most ecoprovinces have significant ecological variability, climate-limited ecoprovinces may be less influenced by fuel treatment than fuel-limited ecoprovinces (at least for area burned, if not fire severity).

    Jeremy S. Littell, Donald McKenzie, David L. Peterson, Anthony L. Westerling (2009) Climate and wildfire area burned in western U.S. ecoprovinces, 1916–2003. Ecological Applications: Vol. 19, No. 4, pp. 1003-1021. http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/34676/PDF.

    “In crown fire regimes … fuel accumulation has not been the cause of large fires, and ecosystems are often within their HRV; thus there is limited need for ecosystem restoration.” Keeley, J.E.; Aplet, G.H.; Christensen, N.L.; Conard, S.C.; Johnson, E.A.; Omi, P.N.; Peterson, D.L.; Swetnam, T.W. 2009. Ecological foundations for fire management in North American forest and shrubland ecosystems. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-779. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 92 p. http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/pnw_gtr779.pdf

  3. Robin Stanley says:

    I am very impressed and bedazzled with all the jargon that once again appears to point at climate rather than fuel as the wildfire culprit. 2ndLaw states “Wild fire area burned in these ecoprovinces thus appears to be limited by climate rather than fuel availability” which again suggests that climate is a greater factor than fuel. So I repeat the same question I have stated time and time again. Can you have a wild fire without the wood, trees, brush, or whatever is used as fuel to burn? Any studies can be “cherry picked” to make them say what yhou want them to say. I still hold that you cannot have a catastrophic wild fire without fuel regardless of what studies can be twisted to say you can. As I said before and still stand by my statement, “climate help determines if the fuel can or cannot reach a combustible temperature”. Climate can change the combustibility of the fuel source. That is all climate does. It doesn’t make fuel or remove fuel. It only changes the combustibility. To suggest climate is more critical to fire than the fuel source boggles my mind. I am disappointed that learned people would grasp such nonsense and more disappointed that people would willing to drink that “kool-aide”.

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