“The strategy is not new — it has quietly been going on for years.” This according to Mary Zabinski, a public-affairs specialist with the U.S. Forest Service in an interview with the Republic / azcentral news (July 23, 2017).
She’s talking about what many believe to be the out of control US Fire Policy that allows seemingly unlimited and purposely grown “managed burns” that are ripping across our entire federal lands system creating epic destruction and massive air pollution. Today, multiple federal and state agencies “burn and pollute” with increasing impunity.
Largely unknown to the public, the federal practice of “managed” vs “direct full suppression” burns has been ongoing since 1978, when according to a US Forest Service historical document titled Fire-Management Policies and Programs, (Susan J. Husari), federal burn agency terminology and practice changed from fire control to “fire management”.
The document goes on to state “this fire-management policy directed fire managers to minimize fire-suppression costs” and damage consistent with land and resource objectives. It defined “Appropriate Suppression Response” (ASR) as a range of suppression strategies. These strategies -called contain, confine, and control – were to be employed to accomplish a cost-effective response to fires that escaped initial attack. ASR implies that the most cost-effective response might deviate from a suppression philosophy that emphasized keeping all fires small.” Today’s fire policy terminology is referred to as “box and burn.”
The public is largely unaware that with an agency “managed” vs “direct full suppression” burn event, structures are protected by our fire fighters on one front, while at the same time on other fronts, burn managers purposely and subjectively grow a fire. Today, effective state of the art fire retardant air tankers are replaced by helicopter drip torching and the dropping small ball type “perforated spherical devices”(PSD’s) that ignite on impact to further grow fires. In 2012 the US Forest Service dropped 10,000 to 12,000 of these PSD’s on a single fire in Oregon.
Additionally, in 2003 a policy of “Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics” (MIST) was implemented. These tactics include watchful monitoring (slow or no immediate initial response action); steering and/or limited use of direct fire suppression tactics, including withholding direct suppression fixed wing aircraft and fire retardant as well as heavy equipment; and gunny sacks used to swat out fire lines by hand, versus effective hand tools or modern suppression technologies.
These ASR and MIST processes result in purposely grown fires, deceptively reported to the public and media as “wildfires.” There is nothing natural or wild about these human managed eco-engineering techniques. This destructive process results in epic toxic air pollution affecting families and children within hundreds to thousands of miles around, and many burn events continue smoldering and polluting the air across state and county lines for months.
What has 40 years of ARS strategies and 15 years of MIST gotten us?
Fueled by utopian politics and academia, hundreds of federal government-sponsored on demand studies are propping up expanded burning in support of the debatable half science of forest health. ASR and MIST techniques have resulted in federal land mega fires and devastating air pollution. Insurance rates have skyrocketed and California faces a policy non-renewal insurance crisis.
The federal burn lobby continues to shape regulations to their benefit. Local air pollution control districts, state air resources boards and US EPA work hand and hand with federal burn agency polluters to grant “exceptions” to their purposeful prescribed and managed burn activities, ignoring the Clean Air Act and the pollution assault on public health.
Many believe federal burn agency fire growth policies serve to intimidate lawmakers and insurance companies. This with the goal of extracting major funding expanding US Fire Growth Policy, “or else” fire frequency and Mega-fires will continue to grow.
Burn agencies are fostering bills in congress that falsely label “managed burns” as “natural disaster” catastrophic events, regardless of cause. They lobby for increased “prescribed burning” without oversight, in exchange for reducing federal agency “managed burns.” This idea is not a fix, but will instead increase the number of agency-created burn events and massive air pollution so harmful to human health.
Doug Flaherty, TahoeSierraCleanAir.org