Updated: Nov 9, 2019
November 6, 2019
PARADISE, Calif. (Reuters) – Forensic recovery teams pressed their search for more victims in the flame-ravaged northern California town of Paradise on Friday as authorities sought clues to the fate of about 1,000 people reported missing in the state’s deadliest wildfire on record.
That’s about all you really need to know because that’s all there is to know. Wildfires aren’t rare news, and especially not in California. President Donald Trump’s message isn’t news either. He uses the same worn-out scrip for every natural or manufactured disaster, praising law enforcement and FEMA, without bothering to console or visit even a single victim. I guess he just hasn’t time for them; he’s so busy Twittering and tweaking his cotton candy hairdo.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, he blames poor forest management for California’s record wildfire toll, threatening to withhold Federal funding for critical programmes simply out of spite. Now everyone's favourite bully has actually gone and done it.
January 9, 2019. Check out the full story at https://t.co/EfTKyK8bj8
Sixty-three thousand of his Twitter followers 'like' it, though it's doubtful that any of those live in California. Still, some disagree with this all-knowing, all-seeing, omnipotent President's assessment that, with proper forest management, fires would never happen. It's because the California government doesn't rake its leaves, he insists. But know-it-alls of every stripe, both state and federal, point to a variety of factors to blame for the destruction, most notably ‘climate change’, the red herring of our age that Trump vehemently denies; as if human activity had nothing to do with these raging infernos.
In fact, neither President Trump nor climate change are the culprits here, unless, of course, these recent infernos are God’s punishment for having elected a narcissistic, conniving sociopath to the highest office in the land. “In God We Trust” it says on the money. right? A huge lightning bolt or rain of fire and brimstone a-la-Sodom & Gomorrah smiting the White House would be a more appropriate and largely welcome sign from heaven. Perhaps that's why snake oil salesperson Paula White has been appointed as the nation's Pastor-in-Chief, to fend off God's retribution.
After almost 40 years in fire protection engineering (www.protecengineering.com), I just can’t resist dipping my oar in here. Fighting these massive wildfires is useless. You cut some fire breaks over here, dump some water or chemicals from water bombers over there, but it’s all theatre. Sure, somebody needs to do something. That’s what all the state and federal funding is about, right? But in this case, it’s wiser and more practical/economical to do nothing because these large volume forest fires nearly always burn themselves out after all the available fuel is exhausted. The volume and scope of these infernos cannot be controlled or extinguished by any means known to mankind. Only a good rainstorm on the order of The Deluge can slow the destruction but, again, that’s up to God.
What can be done, but won’t be, is to hold accountable all the public officials who permitted, and continue to permit, out of control land developers from expanding the urban dynamic into areas that are natural tinder boxes. Authorities attribute the current high death and destruction toll partly to the incredible flame speed, driven by howling winds and fuelled by drought-desiccated scrub and trees in areas where human communities should never have been permitted to land. The California wild fires of 2018 were by far the worst fire event in terms of property damage and loss of life since the turn of the 20th century and largely the result of uncontrolled development. The fires of 2019 are merely a rescripting of that event.
Of course, there were still forest and grass fires long before California was ‘discovered’ by the White Man. It’s nature’s way of maintaining the balance, along with earthquakes and floods and other non-human-caused phenomenon. But there weren’t always upscale human communities abutting high risk forest sectors and dry grasslands where careless drivers toss cigarette butts and other smoking materials out their windows and where a runaway barbecue might send billions in property values up in smoke. And no matter how much money the Feds throw at it – a spiteful bullying President can cut all the funding he wants – nobody is going to stop these fires once they grow beyond manageable size, which, to be honest, is relatively small.
Commonly known in the trade as a ‘firestorm,’ like other kinds of storms (hurricanes and tornadoes, for example) conflagrations the size of the current California wildfires create and sustain their own wind systems (the stack effect). At the same time, they literally suck the oxygen from the periphery of the fire area, causing victims (both human and animal) to perish of suffocation before being incinerated. This phenomenon was noted during the Second World War and played a major role in planning the destruction of Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo and other urban targets for large scale incendiary bombing. How else could one kill twenty-five thousand persons in a single night even before the advent of the atomic bomb? It was soon learned that all a fire needed was to reach a certain level of intensity before it self-generated. Then, no human effort could stop it.
A firestorm can develop into a mesocyclone, inducing true tornado fire whirls. At the same time, the intense radiant heat causes ignitable objects to spontaneously combust before the flame front actually reaches them. Large scale wildfires may not have these same characteristics as they may be driven in a certain direction by ambient wind, rather than their own developed wind systems. These fires are usually started by a single ignition (the upset barbecue in an urbanized area that should never have been allowed), whereas a true firestorm is characterized by multiple fire areas coming together to metamorphose into a raging, multi-headed hydra without equal. Both are formidable variations on the same theme in the sense that although rescue operations can be launched, and flame fronts are sometimes blocked by natural features such as wide rivers or lakes, the fires themselves cannot be manually extinguished.
Maybe there will be some push-back after all, a kind of poetic justice for those who can afford to purchase the kind of upscale homes that unscrupulous developers and corrupt or environmentally ignorant public officials are approving and building faster than a crop of bad weeds. It's becoming harder and harder now for these folks to purchase fire insurance. Insurance carriers are refusing to renew policies and those that will underwrite have raised their premiums over 200 percent. So far this past year, over 7,000 structures have been destroyed by fire in California. They can be rebuilt but it's unlikely they will be reinsured. Over 1 million California homes are considered a high risk for fire, according to state sources, and fire insurance carriers are adjusting to the situation as human habitations expand into ecologically sensitive, high fire risk environments.
So, my humble advice to the President is: get all the photo-op mileage you can from these disasters. God has given you a natural distraction from that annoying Impeachment Inquiry. So long as we build human communities alongside pine forests and other high-risk environments, there are going to be opportunities galore to recycle tired old speeches, tongue-lash and threaten state functionaries, and whip people into a crisis mentality.
Don’t anger the fairies...because eventually it will be pay-back time.