27 Aug 2008, 9:50pm
The 2008 Fire Season
by admin

Whoofoo Irony

Webster’s Dictionary defines “irony” as 2a: the use of words to express something other than and esp. the opposite of the literal meaning. Irony is the incongruity between the expressed and the actual. Sometimes irony is humorous; other times it is a bitter, not so humorous thing.

For an example of irony, we present excerpts from an article that appeared in the Seattle PI on Aug 20th (a week ago) [here]:

Feds watch as Nevada wilderness burns unchecked for 12 days

By Scott Sonner, AP

RENO, Nev. — While armies of firefighters battle wildland blazes across much of the West, federal crews are watching from the sidelines as a 12-day-old wildfire burns unchecked in a remote wilderness area in the northeast corner of Nevada.

With no immediate threat to people or property, the Forest Service has been content to let nature have its way as the lightning-sparked fire crackles its way through nearly 1,000 acres of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s Jarbidge Wilderness Area along the Nevada-Idaho line.

Agency officials continue to monitor the fire that’s 15 miles from the nearest town of Jarbidge, and will step in to fight it if any danger arises, said Linda Slater, a public information officer for the National Park Service who is assisting in the interagency effort. …

But if all goes well, they’re counting on rain or snow to put it out the old fashioned way sometime early this fall.

The management practice called “Wildland Fire Use” is used to manage lightning-caused fires in remote areas where fire is a natural component of the ecosystem, Slater said.

“Right now, they are not putting it out in any place. We have teams in there monitoring the perimeter of the fire and they also fly over it once a day or more to keep track of it,” Slater told The Associated Press. …

So far, the fire in Nevada’s wilderness has burned 950 acres primarily through an area dominated by brush, bug-killed and other dead trees. It’s perimeter is expected to grow, but many pockets of green trees within the perimeter remain unburned, she said.

“It is burning very spotty. It is not black from one end of the wilderness to the other,” Slater said.

The vast wilderness area, home to the threatened bull trout, covers a total of about 195 square miles. The fire is burning within about a 9-square-mile area that has been closed to public entry near the 10,184-foot God’s Pocket Peak. …

“They are not going to let it burn out of the wilderness areas at all,” she said.

What’s ironic about that is, as of last night, the East Slide Rock Ridge Fire was 38,595 acres, had departed the Wilderness Area on Aug 25th, and has been de-whoofoo-ed and declared a suppression fire. A Type 1 IMT has been called in, along with heavy helicopters and airtankers, and the fire will cost many $millions to suppress. A hundred residences are threatened, most in Murphy Hot Springs in the neighboring state of Idaho.

What PIO Slater said and the reality of the situation are polar opposites. Therein lies the irony.

Another irony is that the USFS whoofoo-ed the Jarbidge Wilderness Area in order to “benefit” threatened bull trout. The reality is that bull trout do not benefit from catastrophic wildfires that pollute their watery homes. Once again, the words used by the USFS were the opposite of their literal meaning. There’s incongruity in that. Ipso facto, irony.

Another related irony: in 1998 the USFS dumped tons of rocks and debris on a county road near Jarbidge to prevent vehicles from traversing it. The USFS justified their closing of South Canyon Road by citing Clinton’s Roadless Plan. The road closure had been previously dumped on by a federal judge, and the Clinton Roadless Plan has been dumped entirely since. Whoops! The judge’s order and the USFS violation of that order were incongruous. Everybody should be able to see the irony in that.

The USFS claimed that vehicles would harm the bull trout, even though vehicles on that road and bull trout in the adjacent stream had co-existed for 80 years. And now the USFS has deliberately incinerated the same area, allegedly on behalf of the bull trout.

Their words are pure bull trout when juxtaposed with their incendiarism. Hence the irony.

Oh yes, and when the USFS dumped the tons of rocks, they sent Elko County a bill for $400,000, as if the county was the beneficiary and so should pay for the illegal closure of their county road. Now Elko County gets a megafire from the USFS and they and all the rest of us get to pay for that, too. How’s that for irony!

Two years later, on July 4 , 2000, 600 citizens calling themselves the “Jarbidge Shovel Brigade” cleared the debris, including the 5-ton “Liberty Rock” and reopened the road despite USFS threats of arrests, fines, and imprisonment. The USFS filed a personal suit against the leader of that effort, local rancher Demar Dahl. Eight months later the suit was dropped and an agreement signed to keep the road open. Good thing, because South Canyon Road has been a handy route for firefighters fleeing the East Slide Rock Ridge Whoofoo-Not-a-Whoofoo Fire.

What would be non-ironic today is if Elko County arrested, fined, and imprisoned the perpetrators of the ESRR Fire, the USFS officials responsible for Letting It Burn. That would not be irony; it would be justice.

Note: thanks and a tip of the hard hat to the Grumpster for suggesting this post.

28 Aug 2008, 10:01am
by Forrest Grump

Irony? My butt. Try stupidity.

All these WFU fires, starting in wilderness or roadless areas, spilling out and costing hugely, wrecking the budget AND the dang forests. Dang, I hope the Pape’s win their case and claim, with a nice snort of punitive damages stacked on top. Enough already.

28 Aug 2008, 12:37pm
by Jack M.

Mike - Another example of irony:

You ranting about pouring more resources into fighting fire and out of the other side of your mouth screaming about the Forest Service having to divert $400 million of their budget to cover spending on fire.

Fighting fire costs big bucks …. can’t have it both ways, pal.

28 Aug 2008, 2:14pm
by Mike

Jack, pal, I apologize if my ranting has confused you.

When the USFS fails to spend on initial attack, the fires get big and then they cost more. Yes, firefighting is expensive, but it is less expensive in the long run and in total if fires are contained when they are small. Allowing fires to get big as a cost-savings measure is doomed to failure and has repeatedly.

For a more complete discussion, I refer you to An Open Letter to the US Senate Regarding Fire Suppression Costs [here].

For another more recent discussion of that same issue, see Shall the USFS Allow Fires to Incinerate Our National Forests? Part V [here].

You see, the budget shortfall this year could have been avoided if the early season fires had not been allowed to burn for months on end. Some of the California fires were quickly contained, but others became Let It Burn fires, or worse, deliberate mega backburns that hung on all summer. For more on that see NorCal Fires Approach 1,000 Square Miles [here], and Torching the Budget [here].

Moreover, and this is a very important point, the resource damages from Let It Burn fires vastly exceed the suppression costs. And the larger the fire, the greater the resource damages. For examples see Some Payette and Boise Pics [here] and Lies, Deceit, Obfuscation, and Destruction [here].

In summary, NOT fighting fires when they are small often leads to megafires that must be fought when they are big in order to save resources such as watersheds, homes, and communities. Fighting the big ones is more expensive but those expenses cannot be avoided because too much of value is threatened.

Some say that forests, watersheds, homes, and communities are worthless and so we should not fight any fires anywhere any time, but that attitude is grossly misinformed, hurtful, and hateful. I seek to protect, maintain, and perpetuate forests, watersheds, homes, and communities. That is the beneficial stewardship position.

28 Aug 2008, 9:43pm
by Joe B.


It is a lot cheaper to send in some Smokejumpers, or a rappelling team, or order a few retardant sorties when the fire starts than it is to watch a fire grow for two or three weeks and then say, well, we’d better go suppress it now because we let a dumb policy get in the way of common sense about weather patterns, fuel loads, and the presence of a fire.

It’s not really that hard a concept to figure out.

When our forests are dissected into these wilderness areas and roadless areas, and done so in a blotchy manner throughout the forest, and there are communities and structures in tiny non-roadless islands in this sea of feel good liberal burn baby burn (fire is natural), well then we get serious property loss. Then again, it is also no secret that there are a lot of people in the Forest Service and even more in the modern day environmental movement (i.e. pinko commie movement disguised as lovers of nature when in truth they hate individualism and private ownership and don’t know anything about the environment) who want these structures, these private land holdings, to be destroyed by fire, and further that any effort to rebuild will be thwarted by the inability to get an insurance policy, thereby eliminating all landowners who have to seek bank loan approval to rebuild.

It’s really a sick version of eminent domain being played out where the landowner has absolutely no recourse by way of due process to fight it.

It’s a de facto form of eminent domain, it dovetails perfectly with the dumbest study ever that says people should not live within 30 miles of National Forest land.

Jack here’s a challenge for you, name me three major cities in the western states that are entirely outside of 30 miles from a national forest.

No need to go and get a map and try, because you can’t do it.

And my challenge totally disregards small towns and small cities that also are not located outside the arbitrary 30-mile radius.

This destruction and land thievery has to stop.

And Jack, for your information, all fire starts ignited by lightning can be pinpointed very quickly. We know where they are not long after ignition. We know exactly where the lightning hit immediately, and very soon after, either by lookout, observation flights, IR detectors on planes and satellites, field search, and even through discovery by private citizens, we know exactly where the fire is located.

If initial attack is ordered, it is very hard for these fires in these initial stages to grow out of hand.

All fires start small. All fires start small. All fires start small. I want you to go to bed with that mantra in mind. All fires start small.

Tomorrow night, after you’ve successfully mastered all fires start small, I want you to master small fires can easily be contained, small fires can easily be contained, small fires can easily be contained.

There’s a wonderful story about one man in 1906 in Idaho. His last name was McCall, and he contained a fire on his own. He dug all the fire line himself, he saw the smoke, hiked to the fire, dug the fire lines long before the Pulaski became standard equipment and he alone contained the fire. He stayed on the fire for several days making sure it would not take off.

Now why could one man do this? Was he superhuman? No, he could do this because all fires start small and small fires are easily contained.

Today we have several initial attack options. We can send in Smokejumpers, we can send in a helicopter rappelling team, or we can bomb the fire from the air with retardant. If the fire is near a road, we can put an engine on it.

Why is response time important for your local fire department and in some people’s belief, not important for a team of forest firefighters?

That belief system is screwed up. In fact response time is everything with fire, any fire.

28 Aug 2008, 11:40pm
by Tallac

It’s difficult to understand people who think a 300 acre fire in the “wilderness” can be controlled and contained “naturally” in the middle of summer.

Ten days, 43,000+ acres, and millions of wasted dollars later it still burns. Kind of late to nip it the bud.

I’m sure the USFS and many others will be pleased if it smokes another 400,000 acres on it’s way to last years Payette and Boise burn.

They may get their wish. Red Flag Warnings in portions of the West have already been issued.

Just hope nobody else gets hurt or killed by the Let It Burn Policy.



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