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As Southern California Burns

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Tags The EnvironmentU.S. HistoryPrivate Property

Four years after the conflagration of 2003, we in southern California once again are enjoying the sight of pink skies not caused by the sun, the aroma of burning chaparral, and the sting of smoke getting in our eyes. One can only wonder: what is the role of government in this?

Nearly half of the land in Calfornia is owned by the US government, a bunch more by the state. And the fire protection services are government run. That doesn't sound like a good way to prevent fires. Dr. Richard Minnick, professor at the University of California, Riverside, argued on a radio program yesterday that the cause of these conflagrations is the past one-hundred years' policy of fire suppression, that is, the policy of putting out every fire as quickly as it arises. The consequence is that chaparral, the brush that in October burns like paper continues to grow and grow. If fires were allowed to burn when they occur, say, in July, they would burn more slowly and under control. The fuel that is now burning out of control in October would not be there. Minnick said that one of the current fires (I don't remember which one) is getting close to an area that has not burned in one hundred years. The news media, of course, are keeping us informed about how the fire protection services need more resources: more people, more equipment, and, especially, more money.

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