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Following the devastating fires in Southern California, the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming will hold a hearing on Thursday Nov 1st at 10 AM to examine the scientific link between a changing climate and the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

In an effort to expand the dialogue around this issue, I am seeking ideas, thoughts and questions prior to the hearing. Please have a look at the hearing information below and then post your thoughts in the comment section of this blog. Time for Q&A is limited during Congressional hearings, but I will read all posts beforehand in an effort to inject your ideas into this important debate.

The frequency and intensity of wildfires have increased in recent decades throughout the Western United States.  Last year, the Forest Service spent a record $2.5 billion fighting wildfires that burned 9.9 million acres (4 million hectares), compared to the ten-year average of 6 million acres.  This year, 8.7 million acres have burned thus far. The current fires burning in California are expected to cause over $1 billion in property damage alone and have already burned an area the size of Rhode Island.  Mounting scientific evidence indicates that the growth in wildfires is linked to global warming and that this trend is likely to intensify in the coming decades.  

Witnesses for the hearing will discuss the impact of climate change on wildfires. They will also discuss contributing factors such as increased drought, changes in snowmelt patterns, changes in precipitation, higher temperatures, mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Witnesses include:

* Abigail Kimbell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service

* Dr. Steven Running, Professor of Ecology, University of Montana

* Michael Francis, Director of Forest Program and Deputy Vice President,  Wilderness Society

* Dr. Michael Medler, Member of Firefighters United for Safety Ethics and Ecology, Assistant Professor at Huxley College

I look forward to your comments and ideas. I will be checking throughout the day, and wilfollow up after the hearing. Please be sure to watch a live webcast of the hearing via our website, on Thursday morning at 10AM, and thank you again.

Originally posted to Senator Ed Markey on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:51 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  land use (11+ / 0-)

    how much did letting the hills grow wild in wetter years contribute to the fires? Should CA go back to regular controlled burns? and how could they do that without violating the Clean Air Act? I'm curious about this.

    •  That's what I'm also wondering (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bluementhol, terrypinder, donnamarie, TomP

      Would controlled burns help prevent wildfires like this one in California?

      What's madness but nobility of the soul at odds with circumstance?

      by slinkerwink on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:59:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  are development restrictions recommended? (6+ / 0-)

        how much does development and population increase the impact of vegetation changes and drought increase?

        My candidate was virgin-born out of an apple pie left to cool in the shade of an American flag. - Hunter

        by Buffalo Girl on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:15:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  both comments above (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          great questions.

          •  LA Times Article (6+ / 0-)

            There was an article in the Times last weekend about the fire breaks they built around Lake Arrowhead that really helped save that area. The downside was the people in town who didn't take advantage and remove dead trees. There was another community near San Diego that designed the entire subdivision to be burn resistant, from the architecture to the landscaping. They didn't lose a single home. If you want to spend the money it can be safer.

            The problem in San Diego vs LA is that no one wants to pay for anything. They think the state or the Feds should pay for everything and the locals are so burdened by taxes that they shouldn't have to pay another dime. The per capita fire dept. expenditure in LA vs SD is obscene and the San Diegans cry because no one is there within half a second of the first whisp of smoke to come save them. The Fire Chief after the last set of fires in 2004 quit after the bond measure that was put out to increase fire protection was voted down in 2005.

            These are Republican strongholds with a lot of the usual Republican thinking. Taxes are bad and we won't pay them, well... Sorry. Stupidity is often its own reward. I feel very sorry for the folks who lost their homes but in a lot of instances they made bad choices that had to be lived with in the end. Living on the edge of a brush filled canyon can be very scenic but it is inherently risky.

            •  One wingnut I know in the S.D. area (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              inclusiveheart, A Siegel, SeekCa

              thinks homeowners should get tax credits for installing fire suppression systems in homes (as if they're not already getting enough of a tax break by paying low property taxes.)

              My Karma just ran over your Dogma

              by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:05:33 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Ha! (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                A Siegel, SeekCa

                What about that free market anyway?  The nerve.

              •  Tax credits? (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                marsalt, A Siegel, SeekCa

                When I first read your comment, I was appalled that someone would ask for such a thing.  

                But then it occurred to me that it might not be a bad idea. (Don't TR me yet!)

                Homes with fire suppression systems might dampen the 'wildfire' effect and save other homes by possibly breaking the fire line.  If there were systems that pumped swimming pool water onto/into the house, then the municipal supply would not be affected by the 'drain' on the pressure.  The cost/risk to firefighters and emergency response would be lessened as well.  

                The tax credit could somehow apply to new homes as well as the older ones -- encouraging whole communities to be equipped with such (especially rebuilding in places that are high risk).

                BUT, this could be (carefully) written into any legislation that would be designed to decrease the burden on the middle class.

                The tax credit could be expanded to cover other eco-friendly improvements as well.

                Special note with qualifier:

                I am not an insurance expert.  But after the CA earthquakes in the 80's, there were reports that insurance rates were going to go up across the country to cover the losses.  I would rather award these people a tax break for prevention instead of paying for their possible neglect afterwards.

                Investigate! Impeach! Indict! Incarcerate!

                by Cato come back on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:48:04 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Why does everyone love to hate CA? (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  bronte17, A Siegel, SeekCa

                  How much did insurance rates go up for everyone after 9/11, Katrina/Rita, tornadoes, and other natural disasters?  Why does everyone think it's always CA's fault (no pun intended) when insurance rates increase?

                  My Karma just ran over your Dogma

                  by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 10:10:02 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Did I say that I hated CA? (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    A Siegel

                    Really, I don't see even an implication of that in my post.  I was trying to keep the post to a minimum and not go on and on explaining every detail.  I usually assume that a reader here at Dkos can use critical thinking to put the ideas together.

                    The fires happened in CA -- it's what we are discussing here.  The earthquakes happened in CA and that is where I heard the remark about insurance rates.  They had no control over the earthquake, but, there may have been things (like fire suppression systems) that could have limited the damages from the fire -- especially in expensive homes.

                    In my opinion, the government has a role in moving us forward as a civilization:  building roads that link us and our commerce; enforcing laws that keep us safe; supplying education for our youth, etc. (Do I really need to list them all or can you get the idea?)

                    If our 'civilization' is threatened by global warming, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, etc., it seems to me that the federal government has a role in encouraging minimization of the devastation -- if not total prevention of such -- on both the individual and the macro level.

                    Since much of what the government does is based on a 'risk' to the communities' tax dollars, it would make sense to also include the costs of what citizens have to pay when those tax dollars (or tax breaks) are not spent on prevention:  higher insurance rates, emergency crews, evacuation and recovery costs, etc.

                    I'm sorry that I didn't go into more detail in my above post.  Are we clear now -- or should I go into more detail about how I don't hate CA?

                    Investigate! Impeach! Indict! Incarcerate!

                    by Cato come back on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 10:35:38 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

            •  In the context of your comment one has to really (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              A Siegel, Granny Doc, SeekCa, The House

              be asking what the liabilities are of political policy that discourages banding together and investing as communities in our infrastructure and planning.

              •  Agree (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                xaxnar, A Siegel, The House

                All fire departments have a reciprocity aspect to them but it is unnerving how the San Diego area "relies on the kindness of strangers". Cal Fire and the Forest Service are supposed to come running down out of the Mtns to come save the City and County at the drop of a hat and sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. The part that I find particularly galling is how the paper and other traditional media squawk about "Where was the help when we were desperate?" Well, in process. Had they been like LA and invested in their own aircraft and boosted their own fire department they might have had them in the air before the fires got bad. I was listening to a report out of LA about how they had gotten the Malibu fire put down so rapidly because their pilots were familiar with the area and flew in conditions that someone unfamiliar with the area would have found too dangerous. Sound familiar San Diegans? This fire may cost the local economy upwards of $1B. So what was so wrong about increasing taxes to pay for more protection... oh yeah it cost too much, more than this? I doubt it and what happens on Thursday when the winds are scheduled to pick up again? Stupid and short-sighted.

    •  invite Dr. Roger Peilke (Sr.), Colorado (0+ / 0-)

      maybe the Jr. too, but the Sr. has an excellent book on land use and climate change published in the last two years or so.

    •  IIRC, requirements allow for (0+ / 0-)

      control burns on days when atmosperic conditions are low risk for pollutant accumulation.  Though maybe those guidelines have been changed.

      My Karma just ran over your Dogma

      by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:02:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Welcome to Daily Kos (18+ / 0-)

    Thanks, Congressman, for taking the time to solicit questions from those of us here.

    What about potential fires in other areas?  I live in Missouri, where there is a large amount of hardwood forest, most of which hasn't seen a fire in a century.  However, we've had some very different conditions lately, including high heat along with drought for a good part of the summer.  Do the experts think that climate change may bring wildfires into areas where people have their homes nestled right in among the trees (as is mine) and where most people have no idea of how to prepare for this possibility?

  •  science daily had this (13+ / 0-)

    The catastrophic fires that are sweeping Southern California are consistent with what climate change models have been predicting for years, experts say, and they may be just a prelude to many more such events in the future -- as vegetation grows heavier than usual and then ignites during prolonged drought periods.

    "This is exactly what we've been projecting to happen, both in short-term fire forecasts for this year and the longer term patterns that can be linked to global climate change," said Ronald Neilson, a professor at Oregon State University and bioclimatologist with the USDA Forest Service.

    "You can't look at one event such as this and say with certainty that it was caused by a changing climate," said Neilson, who was also a contributor to publications of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a co-recipient earlier this month of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.


    neilson might be another good person to invite.

    "you gotta pay yer dues if you wanna sing the blues, and you know it don't come easy" -richard starkey

    by Laurence Lewis on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:01:56 AM PDT

  •  Congressman Markey- (8+ / 0-)

    Thanks so much for posting here.

    I'd like to point you to the Wildfire Liveblogs- there's an immense amount of info in there.

    This link is to the final Liveblog Mothership- there are links from there to the entire project.

    Stranger than fiction? At this point,the truth is stranger than japanese cartoons...

    by Remembering Jello on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:03:20 AM PDT

  •  Thank for your diary (7+ / 0-)

    and requesting our input.  I'd like to provide you to a link to DKos's 100 hour effort over the course of the Wildfires.  We provided critical information re: evacuations, shelters, updates, etc.  We are proud of the effort that bloggers dedicated to our fellow citizens in Southern California.  California Wildfire Information

    My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. Barbara Jordan 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:04:42 AM PDT

  •  Seems the newspapers over seas know more than we (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sc kitty

    We need to talk with our wallets because no one is listening to our words

    by one pissed off democrat on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:04:50 AM PDT

  •  When can we include costsin cost/benefit analyses (4+ / 0-)

    The Drought Monitor shows that most of the country is experiencing highly unusual precipitation patterns (drought in the SE and West, increased precipitation in the center and NE).  According to the caption, only 60% of the country would be expected to be shaded under normal conditions.  In fact, the vast majority of it is.

    No one drought can be pinned on climate change.  When do we have enough evidence?

    When can we include the costs of drought, wildfire, etc in our cost/benefit analyses of replacing fossil fuels with renewables?

    What fraction of the direct costs of fighting fires and bailing out farmers should be counted as subsidies to the fossil fuel industries?

  •  water supply....... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bluesee, A Siegel, Granny Doc, donnamarie

    Don't know what to ask except.....water supply.

    Talking about what's happening in Georgia is just as critical as what happened in San Diego, IMO. How much more is that going to happen? And when?

    My candidate was virgin-born out of an apple pie left to cool in the shade of an American flag. - Hunter

    by Buffalo Girl on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:14:24 AM PDT

    •  Governor Kaine, in Virginia, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Buffalo Girl, A Siegel

      is asking us to restrict our water use.  The drought here has flown under the national media radar, but the stress on our forests and ag have been profound.

      Here's the link:

      "I know that there are people in this world who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!" Tom Lehrer

      by Granny Doc on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:22:46 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Questions for you to ask (9+ / 0-)

    How much influence do the big timber companies have on the Administrations Forestry policy?

    How many meetings have Administration Officials had with big timber companies and what was discussed.

    Congressman, here is a link to a Global Warming and Wildfire study:

    STUDY: Global Warming and Wildfires

    Keep up the good work.  We could use another 100 of you in Congress.

    •  From the way I hear it, (4+ / 0-)

      the timber industry runs the Forest Service. Under Bush, it's no longer about wise resource management -- it's about how much access can we give to the lumber companies, regardless of the impact to the environment.

      Regarding the hearing, we often hear from the Bushies that it's necessary to go in and clear out underbrush. But since the timber industry doesn't care about shrubs and underbrush, then end up thinning the mature trees during this process, and that increases the chance of wildfire because it drys out the forest by removing the protective canopy.

      I'd like some discussion about the clearing out of underbrush and if it really helps reduce the wildfires in every situation.

      Refuge Watch -- news from America's national wildlife refuges

      by Naturegal on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:28:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Alien Plant Species (4+ / 0-)

    I'd like to know how much of the burned forests was populated by species that evolved elsewhere than those areas. How much of those forests were clearcut and replaced with "alien" plant species which might be suited to grow there much of the time, but not to survive the periodic fire conditions as well as the native species.

    I know that in Northern California, clearcut native species were replaced by imported alien species like eucalyptus. Eucalyptus grows fast and sheds lots of dry tinder, which is exactly wrong for California's environment, so magnifies the damage from the environment's feature of periodic fire conditions. Native species like redwood are fire retardant, having evolved in the fire conditions.

    Climate Change is not just the weather. It's a conflict between the environment and the species that must fit it to survive and reproduce sustainably. While California's climate might be changing so existing species are less fit, it's possible that some introduced species are even less fit, and make it worse, than the original species that are otherwise fit, except when competing with introduced species with only short-term superiority.

    Since much of those forests will have to be replaced, we should ensure that we're replacing them with the most sustainable species. We should look at the original species which evolved to fit there, to see if they're still our best choice.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:23:45 AM PDT

  •  Agri-Char ... (5+ / 0-)

    Right now, I am becoming quite interested in Agri Char (also here).

    I wonder whether the USFS could start 'clearing brush', burning for power (biofuel), and use the remains to return to the soil, to enrich it, and help capture carbon.

    A path to foster less disastrous wildfires, produce (some) power/electricity, create jobs, aiding in soil reclamation, and helping reduce CO2 loads.  Wow ... is this starting to sound win-win-win-win-win, or what?

  •  Global warming / growth (6+ / 0-)

    I'd love to see people discussing how smart growth policies can have a double-strength effect on California wildfires -- long term because they are necessary for reducing global warming by reducing emissions, and short term because they reduce water use, respect the natural resources, etc.

    Where the government / citizenry / corporations ignore their landscape and engage in undirected sprawl, we get the droughts in Georgia, the wildfires in California, amplified by global warming -- to which undirected sprawl contributes.

    What's Congress doing about global warming? Read in Hill Heat!

    by The Cunctator on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:27:17 AM PDT

  •  Congressman, you might wanna see (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    if you could post this same diary over at Grist blog. You'd probably get some great feedback there, too.

    My candidate was virgin-born out of an apple pie left to cool in the shade of an American flag. - Hunter

    by Buffalo Girl on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:43:23 AM PDT

  •  Focus on Solutions that are land use related (0+ / 0-)

    Why probe the speculative causal links to global warming, when the land use issues are glaringly staring you right in the face?

    •  Not divorced (0+ / 0-)

      Poor land use has and is contributing to global warming. Land use practices are being affected by global warming.

      The connection between wildfires and global warming-induced changes to the regional climate of the Southwest has been established; and the risk of more and more intense wildfires will only increase.

      To solve global warming we need to institute smart, informed land use policies. To manage/prevent deadly, dangerous wildfires we need to institute smart, informed land use policies.

      What's Congress doing about global warming? Read in Hill Heat!

      by The Cunctator on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 11:47:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fire ecology was masterfully (4+ / 0-)

    described in this Diary by FishOutofWater.  It was a great primer on understanding how California has mismanaged areas that should burn in small bouts to replenish the environment.  Instead fire suppression was paramount in the equation.  I was one of the firebloggers being on the scene here in Orange County and those threads are gold for information and real time reports.

    Thanks for the inquiry Congressman.

    Every time history repeats itself the price goes up - Anon... Visit Mind Sorbet

    by Pithy Cherub on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:48:32 AM PDT

  •  Congressman (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Cunctator, marsalt, lisastar

    Since a great deal of these fires occurred on federal owned lands, it would be instructive to learn if the federal agencies charged with managing those lands had performed their duties adequately or if they were adequately funded to do so.

    Thank you Congressman.

    The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility - Albert Einstein

    by theadmiral on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:49:45 AM PDT

    •  Is this true tho? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It was my impression, looking at land ownership maps, that most of the areas burned were private, county, city and state.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

      One thing we do know is that roads contribute to wildfire and that fires TEND to burn out upon reaching roadless areas.

      •  I'm guessing they're referring to those areas (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        in the San Bernardino and Cleveland Nat'l Forest areas.

        My Karma just ran over your Dogma

        by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:08:24 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What I'd like to know is this: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel
          1.  Where did the fires start?
          1.  How close were the ignition points to a road?
          1.  How were the fires started?
          1.  How did the fire act when it reached roadless areas v heavily roaded areas?
          1.  What were the conditions at the ignition point?  That is, what was the vegetation, canopy cover, etc. at that specific point.

          The answers to these questions would prove very valueable in figuring out what conditions are the most risky and what conditions are...well, less risky.

          •  and who paid for those 'yoga lessons' (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            and other perks the mostly white, suburban, right-wing 'clients' got at the stadium there? If it is coming out of MY state or federal taxes I want them to pay it back.

            It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. George Orwell, "1984", first sentence

            by tony the American Mutt on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:28:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  YowZZA! (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              tony the American Mutt, SeekCa

              I didnt even think about that.

              Man, a few more questions I'd want answered, after reading your comment,  would center around why in the hell BLACK Americans are cramed into a stadium and treated like pigs while the WHITE Americans get yoga lessons and free concerts.....Why couldnt the people in NOLA get out?  Why did 1300 people dies in NOLA and 17 die in CA?

              Jesus Christ.  The compare and contrast between the CA disaster and the LA disaster could fill a book.  Shame.  Shame.  Shame.  Shame.

              •  GW and Vulnerable Communities (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                environmentalist, A Siegel

                Excellent point. While we spend a great deal of time on the causes and solutions to climate change, we do not spend enough time on relief and recovery of those immediately impacted by global warming related events like hurricanes and fires. That said, the Select Committee has started looking into global warming’s effect on "vulnerable communities" and held a hearing this month on the topic.  I would recommend the witness testimony, and Congressman Cleaver’s open statement as it was incredibly moving. A video clip is available on our website home page.

                •  Thanks for this Congressman (0+ / 0-)

                  I would hope that my Senator (Bingaman) and Congressman (T. Udall) would look at this seriously also.  The mtn west and four corners area and the desert southwest are particularly vulnerable.  No, we arent going to get a hurricane or, at least where I live in the sagebrush, a fire but when, suddenly 10 million people dont have access to water...what in the name of God is this nation going to do about that?  Drill my well deeper?


                  Thanks for your work.

                •  One other thing (0+ / 0-)

                  I think the point I was actually trying to make is that some, the wealthy, may be able to insulate themselves from GW caused catastrophes like that in San Diego but the poor will not.

                  Does that serve our democracy?  Do the poorest among us suffer while the rich or at least the upper middle class gets aid?  I'm not talking internationally (although that is a great moral question we SHOULD be grappling with)but just about in our country.

                  Does this serve our democracy?!?!?

              •  Massively different circumstances (0+ / 0-)

                Wild Fires and a massive hurricane are significantly different situations.  

                Someone, in one of the threads/diaries, made an excellent comment to provide a (small) window on the differing situations.  If you wanted to donate to those in the stadium in San Diego, you could drive to the local store by your house and drive over to the stadium with a load of whatever.  For Katrina, where was the nearest open store, fully stocked, with full utilities to the Superdome?  

                The Katrina/Wild Fires analogy is very weak and, well, mainly dangerous.

            •  From what I read, those were provided by (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              volunteers who offered those services out of the kindness of their hearts.

              My Karma just ran over your Dogma

              by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 10:13:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  My challenge might be different ... (0+ / 0-)

              is, if this was paid for with Federal dollars, why was there not similar activity in New Orleans / for Katrina displaced?  Is this a "lesson" for the future that was derived from Katrina, figure out how to treat people well?

              As someone who has experience in the disaster relief world, I welcome (some) luxury/niceties thrown toward those in what are, by definition, very tense/difficult circumstances.  The "psychological" release valves can reduce problems/save on requirements elsewhere.  And, well, the marginal cost in the scheme of overall disaster response is quite marginal.

              I would be quite surprised, however, if this was Federal funds ... but I could be wrong.

          •  You asked, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            My Karma just ran over your Dogma

            by FoundingFatherDAR on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 10:27:02 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I'd like to know (3+ / 0-)

    how many more firefighters would there have been available if Bush hadn't launched his illegal war?

    What is the total cost of the misappropriation of our emergency personnel, in lives and dollars?

    "...I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution." - Barbara Jordan

    by racerx on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 08:50:28 AM PDT

  •  Land Use. (3+ / 0-)

    Back to land use.

    1.  Should many of these houses or trailer parks been built where they were built?  
    1.  Were they built in locations that are indefensible from a fire manager's point of view? Why?
    1. What land use regulations does the county and the state have that take into account wildfire? If they dont have any, why not?
    1. If the state and county dont have zoning that takes into account wildfire risk, should the American taxpayers be the ones who fund reconstruction in places that should have never had development in the first place?
    1.  Which of these areas had seen environmental controversy prior to development?  That is, had we been warned, so to speak, that some of these areas were envionmentaly sensitive?
    1.  Should the Federal government pay for reconstruction in a flood plain?  Should it pay for reconstruction in wildfire prone areas?  That is, we are smart enough now to know what areas should be off limits to construction due to the risk of natural disaster and yet we still allow for those areas to be developed.  Is this a wise policy?
    1.  What is the role of invasive vegetation in this fire?  Does the county or state have laws that prohibit the use of invasive, flammable vegetation in landscaping?
    1.  What sort of vegetation do we expect to move into the burned over areas?  Is it flammable?  Will it pose a risk?  What sorts of vegetation moved in after the 2003 fires?  Does it pose a risk?  
    1. What will the state and county do to prevent a reburn of these areas IF the replacement vegetation is high risk?
    1.  What role does climate change play in these sorts of wildfires?  How does it increase risky conditions?  Does the Federal government deserve some of the blame here since it has been unwilling to deal with the basic causes of climate change?
  •  Congressman Markey... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, A Siegel, The House

    I have lived in CA all of my life and it seems that we can never get a straight answer out of the politicians when we ask a question.  I remember the fires in 1997 that almost destroyed the Laguna Beach and Laguna Hills area.  Coming home from work at night going South on the 57 Freeway, you could actually see the blazes from there.  When asked what could have caused the fires to burn so intently, the local politicians said that the arsonist obviously knew what he was doing.  That the land had not been cleared for years.  That people were building their homes in an unsafe area.  That local agencies did not have the resources to fight the fire apropriately.  All of these answers, and not one that Global Warming was the cause or lack of rain fall.  Maybe we should quit trying to pin everything that happens on Global Warming and start to clear these areas of dead trees and undergrowth, and tell people who insist in living in these types of areas or people who build their homes on the side of cliffs, or so close to the ocean, that they are taking a greater chance than most. If you build on the side of a cliff, you are taking a greater chance during a flood or landslide.  If you live so close to the ocean that you can spit in the water from your balcony, you are taking a greater chance when mega-waves come crashing in.  If you build your home in an area that is so remote that it only has one road going in and coming out and one road for emergency vehicles, you are taking a greater chance during fire season.  Plus, stop the greedy land developers and contractors from building in these areas just to make a quick buck.  No one benefits in these cases except for them when a disaster strikes.    

    •  thank you! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The House

      not a california resident but if you don't clear the brush the land burns! thus the reason the native people cleared the underbrush in forests all over North America.

    •  Just wondering ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The House

      Is there some kind of disclosure statement provided to buyers during real estate transactions in California? Something that would make people think about the potential dangers of a specific property, with information like how many earthquakes (perhaps, given that it's California, severe earthquakes) have occurred nearby and whether or not the area is fire-prone and what actions should be taken to reduce your risk (types of building materials and plantings).

      I don't know, maybe everyone in California thinks about these things, but knowing human nature, I doubt it.

      Happy the man and happy he alone--he who can call today his own ... John Dryden

      by ohiolibrarian on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:38:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Inevitable Wildfire and Its Aftermath (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel, The House

    Climate change or not wildfires are inevitable and, depending on the topography, so are mudslides as one of the consequences of wildfires.

    My questions are:

    What plans are there for the aftermath of wildfires in public forests and public lands, in terms of reforestation, replanting and land use.

    Do concessions and other businesses that may be on public land get special fire protection and do they have claims for compensation from the government in the event of destruction by wildfire?

    What is the policy for allocating scarce firefighting resources and should it be changed in light of anticipated frequency and intensity of wildfires?

  •  Isn't it time to examine the relationship between (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    the best possible policies for land use and the policies of government on the prohibition of the cannabis plant?

    I know that this seems a bit off-topic, but please stay with this for just a moment before hitting the "far left field" button or the "spacey pot-head humor" switch.

    Cannabis is a uniquely hardy and beneficial plant. And while it seems clear that the process of being able to consider the many ways the cultivation of this extremely important plant could benefit our ever more challenged environment must include serious discussions on the nature of the plant's psychotropic effects on those who seek to ingest it, I strongly believe that the time is long overdue for we, as a people, to have those needed discussions.

    It seems clear that the cannabis plant can provide a wide variety of important industrial and commercial uses with better results and at lower costs than can be done with ANY OTHER PLANT. While I am not a scientist (and indeed it is a great shame that there has not been extensive scientific research into the many possible uses of Cannabis) I have read, and it seems credible that Cannabis has the most biomass of any plant that can be used to produce ethanol - much better and cheaper than corn, and it's better for the soil also.

    All the aspects of Cannabis' potential represent important possible solutions for a variety of serious problems. And the idea that none of this can be explored and made good use of because of the inebriating effects of the plant is a terrible shame.

    Cannabis used properly probably couldn't have had any direct effects on the type of fire you will be looking into. But it seems to me that the treatment we give Cannabis should come under the purview of your committee. And I strongly believe that Americans are suffering both from the laws making Cannabis use illegal, and especially from the loss of the many important benefits commerce and industry would gain by taking full advantage of the Cannabis plant's truly amazing properties.

    Cannabis hemp was the most important crop in the world not too long ago, and there are good reasons why! Please consider this well Congress-people, and do the right thing, soon!

    Thank you Congressman Markey for all your efforts! You are not my congressman, but I would be very pleased if you were.

    "Chickens are decent people." - G. Carlin

    by The House on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 09:35:44 AM PDT

  •  Arson (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluementhol, SeekCa, The House

    Global warming debunkers claim that since some of the fires were set deliberately, changing weather patterns didn’t contribute to the fires, they were entirely man made.

    The question to pose is whether the arson fires could have caused the considerable damage they did absent the severe dry conditions.

    It’s obvious to anyone of normal intelligence, but half the population has a below average IQ.

  •  people in Qualcomm Stadium (0+ / 0-)

    I heard on the Thom Hartman show a woman called in and said that she was being kicked out of Qualcomm Stadium  with no where to go.  She couldn't afford the gas to go the nearest shelter.  Were people in the richer areas of San Diego get more help than those in the poorer areas?  Were people kicked out of Qualcomm Stadium just so the football game could be played there?  What happened to the people who had no where else to go?

  •  A potential question (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Congressman Ed Markey

    We should recognize that wildfires are part of the natural system, that there are many ways that humans affect that system (fire fighting practices, land management, building codes, sprawl, arson, etc), and that Global Warming is a general (contextual) contributor to worsening wildfire.  (All things being equal, Global Warming makes the wild fire situation worse, but there are many things that we can do about wildfires even in the face of Global Warming.)

    Within this context, are there ways that we can change our forest management and fire fighting practices that would lead to a healthier wild fire situation (less likely to cause major crises like last week's) while also improving cutting America's carbon footprint?  And, if there are such practices, are they appropriate not just for the United States, but for other nations as well?

    •  beyond the US (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      I agree we should be thinking not only about the United States -but the rest of the world as well. We saw terrible fires in Greece this summer threaten homes and historic monuments.

      •  Thank you for participating in the conversation (0+ / 0-)

        To foster even greater engagement, participation early in the diary's life will make it clear to the community that you are engaged, that you are participating, and you could likely see even more actvity/comments.

        This diary made it onto the "recommended list" but it had fallen off before you made your first comment.  If you had participated, even with just a few comments, earlier, it is likely that it would have stayed there even longer.

  •  Some ideas (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    emmasnacker, A Siegel

    What I see looking over this diary is a number of comments about things that work, things that are doable - and things don't work. Let me see if I can come up with a list of topics.

    1. Land surveys - that is, a database of areas breaking down by prevalent vegetation and associated fire risks, correlated with weather conditions. A pro-active policy can have plans made ahead of time, and even think about pre-positioning equipment based on periodic risk assesments. Add in escape routes, assets on the ground (water lines, local lakes, etc.) I'm sure something like this is already being done - but how consistent is it from region to region? Is there funding available for this, and across what levels of government? Who is aware of this - and who needs to be aware of this who isn't?
    1. Intelligent risk design - setting standards for landscaping, home design, materials, etc. that if applied consistently will minimize risk from fire, and not contribute to its spread. Road layouts in developments that don't have choke points that can be cut off by advancing fires. And so on.
    1. Incentives in the form of tax breaks, rebates, insurance rates, whatever for people who invest in things that reduce risk from fire. This could be part of a larger package of programs to encourage people to do things that reduce energy use and the carbon footprint. For example, does putting solar panels on a roof also reduce flammability?
    1. Land use planning that encourages clustering as opposed to sprawl. Leave buffer spaces where fires can be stopped - and reduce the need for driving everywhere. It'd also make it easier to concentrate fire-fighting resources to multiply their effectiveness.
    1. Assist local safety agencies with acquisition of RPVs and/or training and access to DOD RPV systems. One of things that came out of the fires so far was that having remotely piloted aircraft overhead sending real-time video to people on the ground making decisions enabled them to make better decisions and react more quickly to changing conditions. Longer term project: develop RPV water bombers. If they can fly in conditions that would be too risky for human crews, they could make a real difference. Not having to carry humans, more of the payload/structure could be devoted to fire fighting payload. Assuming climate change continues to make fire risks greater, this could be a smart investment for the long term.
    1. Coordination. Locals know the terrain, the special conditions. Imported help can bring in the special gear and the reinforcements. Efforts need to focus on making this interaction work smoothly.

    That's a few things that seem obvious to me. Hope they prove useful.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 04:11:33 PM PDT

  •  I would ask that you keep in mind (0+ / 0-)

    that the ecosystems of different regions of the country are different from each other.
    There is a tendency to want a cure-all. What works in arid regions is not right for Pacific Oregon. What is right for Appalachia is different than what is right for Mississippi. State and local people should be making these planning decisions, not the "Friend from Alaska" and others of his ilk butting in to other states and regions concerns.
    The potential for wildfire goes up with every FS timber sale. Cutting done under "Healthy Forests" is a give away to Industry. That is what I see on the ground in Appalachia. The biggest and most fireproof trees cut, slash and pulpwood left on the ground to become fuel.
    You do not mention deforestation as a cause of Climate Change. It is a contributer, and what is left on the ground contributes to fuel load. We are going to need to be very careful in making and re-making policy on our Public Lands.
    I am also a proponent of "He who builds in the Forest (or on the Coast, or in the flood plain) should take the risk." I'm sorry people got hoodwinked into building and buying houses where they were in danger of burning. Homeowners should be "helped" by their insurance companies, not by my tax dollars, although I would not mind seeing poverty level homeowners and renters being given some help from government.

    Virginia Wilderness Bill passes House! Thanks for the help, kossacks!

    by emmasnacker on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 04:26:01 PM PDT

  •  Thank you! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    Thank you all for the terrific response today. It’s great to see so much passion and substance being displayed on this issue.  I really appreciated the links to past diaries, threads and live blog sessions –those I did not have time to get to, I will have my staff review.

    Reminder -- in addition to being webcast on the Select Committee site, the hearing will air live on CSPAN Radio tomorrow and appear on CSPAN TV later in the day.

    I look forward to sharing some additional comments after the hearing.

    Thank you again!

  •  I live in LoCal (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    A Siegel

    in a town well known to be "wildfire food"

    I think that it erroneous to point all the blame at Climate Change. The megafires have multiple causasions, the top of the list is Climate Change.

    Water...lack there of in terms of rain.
    Development in areas ripe for fires.
    Lack of architectural/landscaping rules to reduce fire hazards (Santa Barbara is pretty strict on this...think red tile roofs drought/fire resistant type of landscaping)
    Societal notion that there will always be help/aid
    Societal notion that it can't happen to them/lightning can't strike twice (notion made by recent Malibu resident)
    Community lack of planning for disaster
    Lack of funding for major brush/foliage maintenance
    Tree diseases


    Democrats MUST start talking about INVESTING in communities...don't slap the word "taxes"...but it is INVESTING.

    I could go on...but, you get the gist.

    I'm not going anywhere. I'm standing up, which is how one speaks in opposition in a civilized world. - Ainsley Hayes

    by jillian on Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 07:23:22 PM PDT

  •  A bit late, but I did not recieve (0+ / 0-)
    until this morning. From a firefighters mother:
        As the mother of a young wildland firefighter (he is 19 and at the California fires as I write) and a wife of a veteran wildland firefighter (he has been a USFS smokejumper for over twenty years) I am writing today to ask the leaders of our nation to please move forward providing on clean fuels for our country.  It is obvious to the vast majority of scientists, as well as all firefighters that we are experience bigger, badder fires than ever before.  
         There seems to be little doubt that the cause of our weird weather patterns are a result of the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.  Fortunately there is something that we humans can do decrease the amount of carbon being released.  As an individual, I drive a Prius and keep my thermostat at 60 in the winter and do not air-condition my house or work place.  As a teacher, I teach my students to recycle and about many other things they can do to protect our environment.  As our nation's leaders it is up to you to write and pass laws that will reduce the amount of fossil fuels that this country burns.  You need to increase the cafe standards and ban the building of any new coal fire power plants.  And invest our tax dollars alternative energy sources.
        Dominion Power is trying to build a power plant in the county where I live.   Not only is Dominion Power doing nothing to sequester the amount of CO2 that will be released from the plant, they also were instrumental in writing legislation that requires the plant to burn only Virginia coal.  I live in a coal county and the coal companies are striping trees and all life of our ancient mountains.  The Appalachian mountains are the oldest mountains in the world and the southern Appalachian mountains are one of the most biologically diverse areas in the United States.  This planet is all interconnected and it needs your help, we need your help.  What you can do in congress can effect the lives of so many people, from those experiencing drought in Africa to Atlanta to California.  Please work together to protect all life on the Earth.  You need to take lead NOW.
    Sincerely, Diana Withen


    Virginia Wilderness Bill passes House! Thanks for the help, kossacks!

    by emmasnacker on Thu Nov 01, 2007 at 09:24:07 AM PDT

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