Burning Out Private Landowners

The destruction of forests by deliberate incineration is not limited to public land. When the US Forest Service decides (without public notice) to burn vast tracts of USFS land, the fires often sweep across private land, too. And in some cases private lands are deliberately burned in backfires set by USFS personnel.

We discussed the (uncompensated) damages to private landowners done by the 2007 Egley Fire [here]. We also discussed the unnecessary and incompetent backfiring that destroyed homes and private property in Ravalli County, MT, during the Spade Fire of 2000 [here]. That incident led to a lawsuit.

Last summer the same idiotic and destructive backfiring of private property occurred in Trinity County, CA, during incompetently managed fires that burned 256,000 acres and caused ten firefighting deaths in the county.

In that case the Feds screwed up royal and then backpedaled in their usual manner: we take zero responsibility but you can go ahead and file a claim — you’ll just get burned again.

From the Trinity Journal last September:

Top forest official defends fire policy

By AMY GITTELSOHN, the Trinity Journal, September 24, 2023 [here]

U.S. Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey visited Trinity County on Friday, viewing burned stands of timber and responding to questions about firefighting strategy and rehabilitation of burned property.

Rey, who is in charge of the Forest Service, defended firefighting tactics that have been controversial here, including firefighter-set “burnouts” used as an alternative to direct firefighting. Rey called the fires that began in June and were only contained a couple of weeks ago the “largest contemporary dry-lightning event we’ve experienced.”

Firefighting techniques have changed as hard lessons were learned, he said, and techniques were adapted to the size of this event.

Asked for help for property owners coping with damaged water systems and burned lands, Rey said that the Natural Resources Conservation Service - which he also oversees — is the agency to approach with these issues. …

The CDF chopper bearing Rey landed in Junction City at a location where swaths of trees were killed on private property during burnout operations above Red Hill Road and Dutch Creek Road. …

From an area off Sky Ranch Road with a view of his property in Junction City, Bill Bradford pointed to a brown triangle and said that 50 of his 80 acres off Red Hill Road were burned by fires started intentionally that went into the crowns. He had granted access, expecting a low-intensity burn that started at the top of the ridge and “backed” slowly down.

These were trees 150 to 180 feet tall, he said, and they represented 300,000 board feet which he will try to salvage - but he will have to get in line because loggers in the area are busy with bigger projects.

“This was all because of the backburns,” Bradford said. “There was no wildfire on this.”

He noted that he kept hearing from firefighters about limited personnel to work on this, and yet in one night eight square miles was intentionally burned. …

At his next stop, Rey viewed damage on timberlands held by Kathy Rose and her family in the Corral Bottom area. Of their 4,000 acres, 2,500 acres were set ablaze - the biggest loss of private timberland in the county due to burnouts.

“Ten million board feet is gone,” Rose said.

Rey asked “What are salvage prices going for?” and got laughter in response. …

In an interview, Rose was near tears as she described how she reassured her mother that if the wildfire reached their land, they would lose some but it would be OK because there are roads and the land is managed.

“We didn’t stand a chance because it was not a wildfire. We were burned,” she said. “And it was not just us.”

The forester for the Rose property, Rick Holub, estimated that the tree mortality in the burn area was over 90 percent. He said he doesn’t understand this firefighting technique or policy.

Salvage will be attempted, Holub said, but this is a “terrible market,” and if Rose decides to replant without any government help she could easily go into the red.

“I just think we all saw something very different take place,” Holub said to Rey. “Huge blocks of land were burned very intensely. There was no underburn. . . . It seemed like a very handsoff approach to actually fighting the fire.”

Hands off, back far far away from the fire, set private land ablaze in useless backburns, destroy, destroy, destroy — the way the USFS fights fire these days is similar to the scorched earth napalming of villages during the Vietnam War.

The mindset behind current Federal fire policies is to render rural America into a wasteland, private and public land alike.

The goals are to drive American citizens off their land, to bankrupt communities, to cause as much suffering as possible, to hammer watersheds with holocausts that destroy habitat, heritage, environments and economies.

The method is in-your-face violation of Federal laws such as NEPA, ESA, CWA, CAA, etc.

The Federal Government is waging a war against the American citizenry. The bureaucracy seeks vengeance, money, and power. The citizens are at their mercy, and no mercy is forthcoming.

15 May 2009, 2:31pm
by bear bait


The Tyranny of the Liberal Urban Majority, you hick!!! You hillbillys are scum. Beer drinking, motorized bottom feeders. You don’t deserve to own land.

You will hear that more and more. The urban vs rural war is well under way, only too many rural people can’t believe it is happening. They need only to see what proposed legislation comes from the urban dominated lawmakers.

People with private land do have the authority to deny trespass to fire fighters intent on setting a back burn. Someone has to declare martial law to allow govt to trespass at will. Maybe judges are going to have to be awakened in the night or hailed out of court by day to sign off on back fires on private lands. There is remedy, and someday a court will rule on how that might happen.

The real stimulus package would be to hire the necessary people, and train them, to hike to every lightening strike and put out every fire possible at the one tree stage. We are closing in on ten million unemployed. We have no CCC in place. But the land management agencies could be ramped up to hire a lot more people to keep fire at a lower level of threat by the sending of a person or people to every smoke. It did work for close to a hundred years. And in the meantime, there could be an accelerated effort to find ways to reduce fuels short of mass incineration. When you are facing ten million unemployed, labor and manpower are not the issues. The will to do something is the issue. The money that has been poured into the union takeover of auto makers, the money poured into banks, indicates there are sufficient funds to hire the needed people to put out every smoke at the one tree level. If there is not the will, then the ballot box is where you change leadership. We have elections to the House, and some Senate seats upcoming. Seek better leadership now, not after the fact. Find the people who will better serve us and support them now. Regain some sort of sanity in our governance.

15 May 2009, 3:07pm
by Mike


You are right on all points, especially this one: never, ever, ever, allow government employees to come on to your private land for any reason.

Unless they are police officers with a valid warrant signed by a judge, government functionaries are forbidden by the US Constitution to trespass.

Do not obey any evacuation order unless it comes from a sitting judge. Leave if you must in the face of government sponsored holocausts, but lock the gates. Those who stay to defend their properties from government incursions are never prosecuted.

Demand the resignation or firing of any and all government officials who threaten your property. Take names. Give those names to your attorney and pursue every legal sanction possible against those individuals who do you harm.

Don’t wait for your elected numskulls to act; they never will. Stand up now, before the government burns you out. Post notices on your property line and in the newspaper of record that any and all trespassers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

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