It seems that the whole West Coast of the United States is on fire. In fact the smoke from the fires has moved across our country and made its way to Europe.
People have lost homes and livelihoods. Some have lost their lives. Animals are affected too.
I grew up in mostly rural areas. I know that burn-offs are used to clear land. I know that if the farmers do not tend to their land fires will break out as a control. The same thing happens to forests. And to be clear (as politicians say) I have also lived on the edge of a forest where fires are raging this year.
If left unchecked timberland will tend to itself. Larger trees will block sunlight from smaller trees. Larger trees will suck up a larger amount of moisture from the ground. A lot of the smaller trees languish and do not grow.
At the same time some of the older trees die. They fall over. Natural occurrences like wind and lightning attack them and they fall.
It seems sad for the older trees. Did you know that a lot of animals and other plants live exclusively in snags? That is what the fallen trees are called.
Dead leaves and dead trees rot and return to the soil. Nutrients from the process feed new trees.
It has been suggested that improper forest management is responsible for the fires burning at this moment. Perhaps there is some validity to that. I do not agree.
It has been said that Finland, for instance, has fewer forest fires because they sweep the forest floors. Not true.
Finland lies partially within the Arctic Circle. The environment is cold and damp. There are a lot of lakes and swamps. Weather patterns are different than those of California.
The Finns DO NOT rake the floors of the forests. When they learned that was being said they made amusing pictures and cartoons about it.
Although the fires are in all the states on the West Coast I am singling California for this discussion.
A large portion of California is on fire. We call them forest fires Some of the burning is occurring because of invasive grasses not native to California.
What causes the fires? Lightning striking dry trees and shrubs. Carelessness with campfires and cigarettes. Arson. One fire was even caused by a couple who wanted to announce the gender of their expected baby.
California's climate is dry. The fact that it seldom rains makes a desirable environment for many people.
They build new homes and a great portion of those are close to the wild. That is a danger zone when the fires start.
Who is responsible for caring for the forestland in California? There are about 33 million acres of forest in California. State and local agencies own about 3%. Approximately 40% is privately owned. 57% is owned by the Federal Government.
The US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Parks Service are responsible for taking care of 57% of California's forests. Perhaps they need to rake the floors of the forests to prevent fires?