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treeswarper
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PostWed Nov 14, 2018 2:51 pm 
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This offers an explanation on why we can't put all fires out.  It also contains a video of CA firefighters in a fairly safe spot.  It shows how hairy even those safe areas can get.

Atlantic Story

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zephyr
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PostWed Nov 14, 2018 8:32 pm 
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That's an excellent article treeswarper.  I think the analogy of huge wildfires to an ocean is quite apt.  Here's a quote from the article:
“We think that we as humans should be able to dominate this phenomenon of wildfire. And in reality, we can’t. Even though we can put a person on the moon, and even though we can create this global computer network, we can’t. This is a natural phenomenon that is similar to the ocean in that it is really big, that it is much larger than us when it really gets going.”

In some ways, he said, a wildfire is similar to a combustion-powered hurricane. Fires put out tons of hot air at their center, which tries violently to rise. This rising air creates a vacuum at the core of fires, creating a fast-moving conveyor belt of cooler air flowing into the fire from all directions. A large fire can pull in so much air at such high speeds that its ability to do so is hindered by Earth’s rotation. In the Northern Hemisphere, a large wildfire’s smoke column will begin to spin counterclockwise, just as happens to hurricanes.


They are quoting Park Williams an assistant research professor at Columbia University.  He's a professor of Climatology there and studied the 2011 Las Conchas fire in the Jemenez Mountains of New Mexico.  He advocates more controlled burning of fuels before the fires arrive as a course of nature.  ~z
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Malachai Constant
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PostWed Nov 14, 2018 9:20 pm 
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This has always been the case. Anyone who has been involved in fighting a large fire knows this as has the FS from its inception with various “big burns”. The best you can do is contain until the weather changes or fuel runs out. Now in California the weather does not change much so we have huge fires in November. You can reduce fuel to some extent in forests but not much where these fires occur. I have hiked in the hills above Santa Barbara and Malibu and it is always a tinderbox now. You can burn it off and it will be back in a few years. It is like fighting the sea, in the long run we are all dead. So it goes.

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zephyr
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PostWed Nov 14, 2018 11:09 pm 
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Another quote:  So how should Americans react to the power of forest fires? By respecting them, Williams said—and by understanding that we are in a new era of great fires. “The continuing increase in fire is an inevitability in the western United States. It is an inevitability that this trend is going to continue,” he told me. “If the public understood that, then they would become more tolerant of managerial tactics that are currently seen as too risky or heartless.”

The Atlantic article that the O.P. posted seems to suggest that this is a learning opportunity for the general public.  When Williams was working at a national laboratory in New Mexico he got to experience the Las Conchas fire.
"Williams couldn’t go to work—his lab had been evacuated—so he and his friends drove around town, hoping to catch a glimpse of the blaze. Eventually they came to a spot just below the mountains. He remembers the air outside the car reeking like an ancient brick fireplace. The fire stood a mile off. “It looked like a skyline of buildings,” he told me. “You could see it in the mountains above you.”..It was a wall of flame, probably 100 feet high.

The vision made him realize it is impossible to fight wildfires."
  ~z
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treeswarper
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PostThu Nov 15, 2018 5:56 am 
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I spent Thanksgiving somewhere in the hills between LA and San Diego in 1980.  The Santa Ana winds were blowing then, so they had a big fire bust.  Flying in, you could see fires all over the place.  Just saying November fires are not new, but all the homes in the brush are. 

I went on a crew hoping we would get to go to Disneyland.  Alas, we did not.

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gb
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PostThu Nov 15, 2018 6:14 am 
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treeswarper wrote:
I spent Thanksgiving somewhere in the hills between LA and San Diego in 1980.  The Santa Ana winds were blowing then, so they had a big fire bust.  Flying in, you could see fires all over the place.  Just saying November fires are not new, but all the homes in the brush are.   

Well not exactly. November fires are not new but are more frequent and larger than in modern history because drought is a more frequent problem. This is especially so - that drought is more severe - in the Southwest.

From Calfire's Strategic Fire Plan of 2018:

Quote:
Since the 2010 Plan, California has experienced environmental changes, and CAL FIRE has made significant organizational changes. The effects of climate change, overly dense forests, and prolonged drought have resulted in unprecedented tree mortality in the state’s forests, as well as an increase in the number, area, and severity of wildland fires. Loss of life and structures as a direct or proximate result of wildland fires is at an all-time high. In turn, CAL FIRE has set its focus upon increasing the pace and scale of fire prevention activities while simultaneously fielding a growing year-round wildland fire suppression force. The 2018 Plan anticipates that these trends will continue.

Note the second to last line of the necessity of fielding a year-round wild land fire suppression force.
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gb
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PostThu Nov 15, 2018 6:24 am 
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Current US Drought Monitor:

https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu

The terms Severe, Extreme and Exceptional all tell the story of a Climate Condition that is nowhere near normal as compared to recent history.
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moonspots
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PostThu Nov 15, 2018 7:07 am 
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gb wrote:
Current US Drought Monitor:

https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu

Interesting website, & data. I've often wondered what the requirements are to declare drought status for an area might be. If I were guessing for a quiz, I'd say it has to do with recent precipitation as compared to long-term amounts. Averaged out of course, but now that I've asked, (while I'm waiting for the house to warm up a bit this morning) I guess I'll have to do some further searching.

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Jake Neiffer
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PostThu Nov 15, 2018 8:16 am 
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There are things that can help in certain contexts, for example grazing livestock:

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jinx'sboy
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PostThu Nov 15, 2018 9:43 am 
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moonspots wrote:
I've often wondered what the requirements are to declare drought status for an area might be. If I were guessing for a quiz, I'd say it has to do with recent precipitation as compared to long-term amounts.

You are not far off.

Wild land firefighters and managers use a KBDI scale, rather than just the climatological data mentioned above.  https://www.wfas.net/index.php/keetch-byram-index-moisture--drought-49
It specifically looks at moisture in the soil and the duff and litter layers.  Which is more important than just precipitation trends when looking at forecasting fire behavior and fire effects, etc.
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treeswarper
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PostThu Nov 15, 2018 9:54 am 
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Jake Neiffer wrote:
There are things that can help in certain contexts, for example grazing livestock:

I think goats are the only thing that would eat the brush.  That Chaparral stuff is stiff and poky--does not give way when you try to walk through it. 

Goats are also good for after fire erosion control work.   Mulch or straw is laid down and goats are fenced in on it.  They trample it into the soil and add a bit of fertilizer. 


I also learned that Weber kettle barbecues actually survive fires.  Just some trivia.

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