Tag Archives: california fires

Nothing But Matchsticks


If you want to understand what’s happening in California, I highly suggest reading an article written last summer by Mark Arax.

Below is a blurb and link to the full article.

“The Indians gave us the natural forest. Much of it was patchy, and the trees grew to differing heights,” he said. “This combination of open ground and uneven canopy kept the fires from raging. Now the fires are raging. They’re racing from forest to suburbia, and we’re scratching our heads trying to figure out why.

“Remember,” he said, “fire is a natural event in a healthy forest. It starts by lightning strike and usually burns itself out quickly. But before it does, it scorches the forest floor and thins out lower branches and shrubs. This helps tame the next fire. This allows new trees to generate. The timber companies could have worked inside that natural cycle and harvested a sustainable amount of wood. Instead, they were allowed to clear-cut the old growth and plant new trees one on top of the other.”

He was talking about how industrialized agriculture had come to the mountain. “So the trees are just another crop?” I asked.

“That’s right,” he said. “The growth is so uniform that when fire hits it, it becomes a blowtorch. The trees are nothing but matchsticks. Get a spark up, and she’s gone.”

“You’re saying we’ve turned our forest into easy kindling. But what about the kindling of all these houses?” I asked.

“Even though I was the head of state Forestry and Fire, I couldn’t stop it. When I left the agency, I wrote that these were ‘unprecedented patterns of human settlement’ in areas that John Muir had called God’s wildness. The settlement patterns resulted in perhaps the most rapid and massive disruption of natural fire regimes and watersheds ever experienced on earth.”

Link to the full article:



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