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Forest Fire Debate

Updated on July 26, 2017

Causes and Affects

Oh, boy! The blame game begins. As fire ravages Montana’s grasslands and forests, the debate about the causes of these fires heats up. Every year when our forests are burning, strident voices can be heard disparaging the “tree hugger” environmentalist without considering the combination of events that multiplies the forest and grassland conflagrations. I have even read where Hillary Clinton is blamed for the logging industry’s declines.

Let’s look at some causes and contributing factors of forest and grassland fires. The most obvious are manmade causes. Ninety percent of wildland fire is caused by unattended campfires, burning of trash, discarded cigarettes, and arson. Natural causes include lightening and lava where applicable. I am pretty sure these causes are without dispute.

But what about the contributing factors such as climate change, inaccessible terrain, and poor land management. Now, I know, that many nay-sayers will want to argue this, but experts in the field of climate change contend that longer fire seasons, greater numbers and more intense fires, and increased acreages are the result of climate changes. Decreased humidity, drought, and increased earth temperatures contribute to wildfire hazards.

Some scientists even speculate, however, that wildfire mismanagement increases the likelihood of forest fires. By suppressing the natural wildfire effect, forests often cannot regenerate, provide sustainable habitat, clear the forest floor, or be resistant to disease and insects.

Another factor in fire suppression difficulty is the inaccessible terrain. Many times, the only way to fight fire is with fire retardants dispersed from airplanes or helicopters that lift hundreds of gallons of water. When it comes to mountainess, rocky terrain, human firefighters are limited by their human-ess.

Wildfire and firefighting have no simple remedies. Money and manpower is needed to answer the wildfire seasons, and blaming one person for decades old policies is counterproductive. Above all, protect human lives and property. Make firefighters and homeowners a priority and not a game of feds versus states. We are all in this business of fighting fire one way or another even if we are on the sidelines.


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