IS AT WAR!
By JOHN M. DERBY
Times Founding Publisher
July 26, 2018
Our state is in a Fire War — as surely as there are
a half million men and women on the battle line fighting
for us in the forests surrounding our state. And these brave
heroes are outgunned by nature, and surrounded by the flames.
It’s a war we can’t win. We can only cut down
on the losses.
We are totally unprepared. Every so-called Fire Season,
we know the war will come. We may not know where and when.
But we know it’s coming, yet somehow we are never
prepared for it.
Actually for years, this state has done everything possible
to create its own fire storm because of its poor forest
Instead of having an aggressive tree and undergrowth management
program, California has allowed the state’s forests
to become a tinder box, ready to explode at the first lighted
As of this writing, the Carr Fire outside of Redding has
taken the lives of six people, left at least 19 missing,
forced 40,000 to flee for their lives, and consumed 113,000
acres — and its 33 percent contained. It’s the
7th most destructive in state history, and has destroyed
more than 1,000 homes.
Closer to home, near El Portal, the Ferguson Fire has burned
nearly 63,000 acres while killing two fire fighters, and
injuring almost a dozen. This fire is supposedly 39 percent
contained, however, a change in the wind could take it right
into Yosemite Valley, which remains closed through Sunday
due to severely bad air quality.
After about 16 days of fire in California, the Federal
Government finally called it a national emergency. Actually,
much of the land belongs to the federal government.
We feel that one of the biggest mistakes in handling forest
fires in California is not having enough manpower and equipment
ready for Immediate Response. Fires are simply allowed to
get too large before bringing out the big guns.
There are also not enough “big guns,” and by
this we mean early-strike, Super Air Fire Tankers and Fire
Helicopters. These are essential in fighting the kind of
forest fires we are dealing with now. The terrain makes
it almost impossible to get men and other kinds of equipment
to the fire lines.
We have also pushed to having Castle Airport used as a
central fire command center for the Air Tankers and Fire
helicopters. It is a perfect location, right in the center
of California. It has one of the longest runways in the
state and it is practically unused.
Right now there are three DC-10 Air Tankers stationed at
Castle and another eight Fire Helicopters, but this is just
faction of what is needed. Ten times that amount would not
be out of order!
There would be state legislators yelling about the high
cost, however, look at the billions being spent on forest
fires this year and in the past. Look at the loss in homes
Fire Season is the new normal in the Golden State —
threatening lives, livelihoods, homes and essential services.
It darkens our summer fun and tourism potential, and creates
miserable air quality conditions in the already scorching
hot Central Valley.
We believe that overall manpower could be cut back and
replaced with better immediate response teams that could
save the state millions of dollars. Mountain home owners
need to be a part of the solution too. Since their houses
and livelihood are at stake, more effort in clearing brush
and undergrowth would certainly help.
Finally, the state needs to look at the Forest Fires as
an ongoing war which needs to be fought all year long, year
after year, not just when the summer’s high fire season
Using Castle as a Air Fire Command Post just makes sense.