Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Learn to love fire

The Forest Service is getting set to touch off a series of prescribed burns.

They’re gun shy after last year’s escape, which caused the 1,800-acre Wizard Fire. I think they’re worried about public response.

Well, this member of the public is in full support of the fall burning program. I don’t love smoke on crisp, clear fall days and I don’t love brown pine needles in my woods — but I’m willing to live with them for the sake of the long-term health of the forests I love.

The forest is more than a pretty view — it’s a vital ecosystem. For some of us it is a downright sacred world. We’ve done a lot to make it sick and fire is the cure.

It’s the only cure, too. Mechanical thinning doesn’t replace fire. Nothing does. It is nature’s cleansing agent and this is its time of year.

There’s no excuse for the lapses that led to the Wizard Fire. I understand why people are angry about that. But there’s another truth that needs to be told here: the Wizard Fire was a beautiful thing from the standpoint of forest health. Almost all low-intensity — a nice, cleansing fire.

We need to treat more of the forest with fire — and at this time of year — not less. Of course we need for it to happen on purpose, in a controlled, non-threatening manner.

The Forest Service blew it on the RNA burn last year — and learned from it.

We can’t let the risks associated with prescribed burning make us too fearful to reap its benefits.
We need to put up with the smoke and the “ugly” immediate aftermath, because it is the only thing that can protect the forest from much uglier disease and from catastrophic fire.

About 1/4 of the Angeles National Forest where I roamed incessantly as a kid and as a young man has been ruined, burned to a literal crisp by an arson-caused wildfire of catastrophic proportions.

It was inevitable; the only thing that could have prevented the dire consequences is if those slopes had burned over lightly many times in preceding years.

If you love the forests of the Sisters Country, learn to love fire. The forest cannot live without it.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

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