Large Wildfires Unavoidable

california containment ideas life reflections underbrush wildfires yellowstone

Will Faught

2 minutes

It seems to me that large wildfires like that of southern California are unavoidable. I’m not an expert, but it’s my understanding that wildfires are a natural phenomenon that play a useful role in the life cycle of the environment. They can clear out thick underbrush and smaller trees that can come to choke larger trees and in doing so they enrich the soil with the ashes they leave behind. In fact, Yellowstone has a policy of letting small natural fires burn freely because its management recognizes these benefits. So allowing reasonably-sized wildfires to burn is a good thing in the long run, given they don’t damage anything or injure anyone.

In California, however, people live all over the place, and it’s probably not safe to let fires burn in most places. So all that underbrush keeps piling up over the years without being swept away in small doses naturally. We quickly put out any fire that might do so. So when we can’t get one of these fires under control, they explode into a firestorm that does lots of damage.

I’m not sure what the solution would be for states like California. What will probably happen is nothing, since there probably isn’t an obvious, free solution. Not until a lot more people die. It’s funny, isn’t it, how most people seem to prefer to err on the side of ignorance and plead later that no one could have foreseen what happened instead of doing the prudent thing and doing something preventative. Maybe we’re just intrinsically lazy, unwilling to see or seek problems when none are obvious. It seems to be some kind of natural law that people must die before anything is done.

Anyway, maybe the city planners could mandate cleared bands of land that could form a grid of buffers to keep fires from spreading from area to area. This way we could clear each piece of land of dry underbrush separately and safely and also prevent the spread of fires from the wild into urbanized areas. You could turn the bands into parks or fields.