Our wildfire crisis is nowhere near as bad as climate alarmists claim

The sheer dishonesty of environmentalists’ claims about our current wildfire crisis is enough to annoy any objective observer of the situation.  Sure, things are bad out west – but they’re nowhere near as bad as they’ve been in the past, and they’re not so much the fault of climate change as they are of forest mismanagement.

The Foundation for Economic Education presents the facts.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

With all due respect to the Cassandras preaching apocalypse and hell on earth, there are two points worth mentioning.

First, as I explained recently, there is widespread agreement that California’s megafires stem largely from decades-long mismanagement of its forests. As The New York Times explained earlier this month, for more than a century, many firefighting agencies have aggressively focused on extinguishing blazes whenever they occur, a strategy that has often proved counterproductive.

Other parts of the US have shown, the paper said, that less aggressive extinguishing of natural fires and targeted prescribed burning are effective at periodically clearing excess vegetation in forests and grasslands, which essentially serve as the fuel of California’s wildfires.

. . .

Texas actually has more forest and higher temperatures than California, but the Lone Star state rarely struggles with fires, perhaps because 95 percent of its land mass is privately owned and these owners act as responsible stewards of the land.

If climate change was truly the primary culprit of the wildfires, wouldn’t it stand to reason other parts of the US would be suffering similar results? Are there reasons climate change impacts California more than Texas and the Southeast US?

This brings me to my second point. There’s a perception that today’s fires are historically unprecedented … But, the claim that 2020 is one of the worst in US history is simply not true.

. . .

So far in 2020, the US has experienced 42,809 total fires that burned a total of 7,015,956 [acres]. These numbers are indeed above the ten-year average—45,711 fires and 5,963,782 acres. However, 2020 is unlikely to exceed the number of fires or acreage burned just three years ago in 2017 … News agencies and NIFC were simply ignoring all data prior to 1960. When this data is included, one sees 2017’s record setting fires burned about one fifth of the acreage of fires in 1930 and 1931 … The entire data set … shows the yearly average between 1926 and 1952 was several times higher than the peaks of today.

. . .

We’ve seen no shortage of crises in 2020, but it’s worth remembering a simple truth: pandemics, riots, and wildfires are nothing new. They have been around as long as humans have.

What’s changing is our response to these phenomena. Each crisis is presented as an opportunity to save humanity, and each requires giving more control to central planners.

Rahm Emmanuel popularized the phrase “Never let a good crisis go to waste,” but it was economist Robert Higgs who showed that crises are the mortal enemy of liberty. His great work Crisis and Leviathan lays bare the state’s tradition of claiming new powers during emergencies, powers that rarely are relinquished fully when the crisis ends.

There’s more at the link.

The current brouhaha about our “wildfire emergency” is being whipped up by anthropogenic climate change alarmists.  They seek to use it to grab more authority and more control over our wilderness areas and how we manage them.  Their interest lies in maximizing our alarm and concern over current events, while deflecting our attention from the (frequently much worse) events of the past that put today’s wildfires in perspective.

Let’s not lose that perspective, and let’s be duly skeptical about those who are trying to stampede us into precipitate action that isn’t warranted by the facts or the historical record.  We don’t need an even Bigger Brother pushing us around!



  1. I'm not sure that comparing Texas to California is appropriate; much of the dry part of Texas (West Texas) has few or no trees, and little other vegetation, hence little risk of fire.
    Most of the wooded part of East Texas is east of the 'dry line' and is wet enough that fires are unlikely.
    I think it would be better to contrast California with Colorado and Idaho than with Texas.

  2. Forests were managing themselves LONG before man decided to take the job. Fire is a VITAL part of the life of a forest. dead wood and brush are done away with, making way for new growth. Nutrients are returned to the soil. Invasive bugs are controlled. Indeed, out here in the Wild, Wild West, the seeds of certain trees, such as the Pinion Pine, cannot germinate unless fire heats the cones to pop them open!

    No, the "wildfire crisis" is not "climate change." If it were, there would be similar fires burning in the north of Mexico, and the south of Canada. No, most of these fires were caused by PEOPLE. There are the arsonists, but there are also the millions of bums and illegals who were invited here by the state government; people who build campfires in high brush areas, and people who think it's OK to burn trash in back yard like they did in "the old country. Anything else they tell you is pure BS!

  3. Florida suffered from Dem-led forest mismanagement prior to 1998. And then we burned all summer long. Some of the scars are still visible on SR40 in the Ocala National Forest.

    After 1998? Florida got it's collective stuff together and we haven't had widespread firestorms (for that's what that summer was called, the Firestorm of 1998) since.

    Maybe California needs to do what we did. Elect republicans and other conservatives (like the now growing Trump-based America First movement, yah, sure, not a real party but just look at all the conservative politicians that are getting elected, they are all America First people…)

    Doesn't help that, as Peteforester pointed out, most, if not all, of the wildland fires are… man-caused. Either Antifa, BLM, other Marxist-Socialist groups, straight-up unassociated anarchists, homeless not being careful, illegals not being careful, drug gangs burning other drug gangs out, the occasional stupid divorce, and so forth.

    And also doesn't help that all three affected states have practiced 'catch and release' on their arson suspects. To the point that some suspects have been caught multiple times.

    How to stop arson. Find the person. Stake them out in the fire. Televise it. Issue will be over. Or.. yeah, be nice, but arson suspect? No Bond at all. No 'catch-and-release.' Arsonists are like child-abusers and rapists, they don't stop at one.

  4. Don't forget that NOAA has declared each of the last 15 years to be "the hottest on record", while the temperatures stayed level or declined slightly.

  5. I know enough about geology and astronomy to realize that almost everywhere in the temperate zone is well inside the perimeter of "Good Times."
    That said, those of you wondering "What else can happen in 2020?" please stop. Now.

  6. Not sure if it's the article linked in your post, but I read in one article on the California fires, and mismanagement thereof, going back a century or more, that prior to the Gold Rush, it's estimated that fire burned between 4-8 MILLION acres in California every year.

    Yeah, there were Mexicans around at the time, but not many. Not enough to make a difference. The vast bulk of the region's population was Indians.

    At the time that article was written, CA was at 3.4 million acres burned this year.

    So, huge numbers of acres burning in CA is totally normal. Even twice as many acres as so far this year. Not outside the norm for that ecosystem.

  7. It's amazing how many amateur epidemiologists appear out of the woodwork commenting on a disease linked to a pandemic that apparently isn't happening. Now we have amateur fire behaviour specialists commenting on forest fires linked to climate change that apparently isn't happening.
    Without having to refute every single point, I'll just make one. Comparing the size of fires from 1930 to 1952 with today is simply ludricrous. Firstly, there was a lot more forest to be burned due to subsequent built housing and other developments and the construction of wider highways that can also serve as fire breaks. Basically, there was a lot more to be burned, fewer people to fight fires and nothing to contain them.
    Secondly, and most important, the firefighting technology and resources available in 1930 bear absolutely no comparison to those available today. Back then, there was no radio communication, no 4WD vehicles, no remote sensing, no aerial water bombers, no coordinated arrangements between agencies, limited training of personnel, faster responses to ignitions, improved logistical support etc etc.
    How do you think a division from the US Army from 1930 would fare in a battle from one of the US Army divisions of 2020? That's also a good illustration of the different levels of firefighting capabilities between these 2 dates.
    Yet, as the article points out, even with these vastly improved capabilities fires have been getting bigger in the past decade. If fuel alone is the problem, why didn't these fires occur 40, 30 or even 20 years ago when there's supposedly enough build up to sustain these megafires? What else has changed? Oh that's right, the only logical explanation has to be Antifa.

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