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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/7355/ah-heres-the-problem-with-the-california-fires/

Ah, here’s the problem with the California fires

October 25, 2007 by

According to the NYT, the problem with the government’s handling of the fires is due to poor coordination between agencies (reform!), communication snafus (reform!), and not enough money (fork over!).


george nye October 25, 2007 at 9:39 am

If during proper times each year control burn of underbrush took place no large fires could occur.We need to learn this lesson.

Mitchell October 25, 2007 at 10:00 am

I agree. Controlled burns throughout the year would be most helpful. I think the best course of action, though, is to just let the fires burn. Nature renews itself and will always renew itself. If man is in the way nature will destroy man. Those whose homes were built in places prone to nasty fires should recognize that nature will always win. They gambled and lost. Sucks for them.

Robert M. October 25, 2007 at 1:41 pm

Sucks for all of us because the government will now give them money to rebuild. Thereby making it not a gamble with their $$.

月饼 October 25, 2007 at 4:04 pm

thanks for you

Kalim October 25, 2007 at 4:25 pm

Haven’t you heard? The problem with the California fires is that Al-Qaeda is behind them, this according to the propagandists at Fox News.


TokyoTom October 25, 2007 at 7:40 pm

George Nye, controlled burns might of course be useful in soime places, especially along the WUI (wildland-urban interface), but Randal O`toole at Cato has done a good job showing that generally fuel accumulation is not a major factor in the increasing number and severity of fires, but climate change, and the fuels build-up argument has been one that suits the forest service`s budget desires:

Instead of fuels, they found a strong correlation between drought and fire. “Thus, although land-use history is an important factor for wildfire risks in specific forest types (such as some ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests), the broad-scale increase in wildfire frequency across the western United States has been driven primarily by sensitivity of fire regimes to recent changes in climate over a relatively large area.”43

Similar correlations between drought and fire
have been found going back to 1931.44 Another explanation for the large fires in recent years can be found in the changes in firefighting
strategies aimed at improving firefighter safety. To fight large fires, incident commanders often backburn tens of thousands of acres in an effort to create large firebreaks that wildfires cannot cross. …

All of this research—some of it done by Forest Service scientists—indicates that Forest Service leaders have greatly exaggerated the excess-fuels problem. By concentrating on this issue, they have deftly persuaded Congress to increase funding for hazardous fuel reduction in national forests from less than $8 million in 1992 to nearly $300 million in 2007.

Meanwhile, because of the perceived threat of hazardous fuels, Congress has increased funding for presuppression (which the Forest Service now calls preparation) from less than $180 million per year in the early 1990s to more than $650 million per year since 2004. Despite—or perhaps because of—all this preparation, the Forest Service managed to spend a record amount of money on suppression in 2006, and it has spent three times as much on suppression in the last five years as it did in the first five years of the 1990s.

http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=8210The fire http://ti.org/fire.html

Carroll Straus October 25, 2007 at 10:27 pm

I live in the area between the OC burn areas (human set) and the SD burn areas– apparently wind related. So i am “in the zone.”

and i think the simplistic assessmets (altho by far the most common) are as useless as ALL simplistic analyses are.

This is an area which burns regularly and has for millenia. But habitation is centuries ond, and it’s a tad ;late to turn back the settlement of the area. True,fire suppression policies have proven ill advised. Again a tad late.

Fast forward to now–what of the builders who made their millions building homes where there should either be no homes or specially built homes, and fire risks should probablty made known to buyers?

what if ALL these factors-and human natire not to think ahead effectively– are all part of the complex equation of development and disaster EVERYWHERE?

What if blame is unhelpful? What if– hold on to your hats– COOPERATION AND COMPASSIONATE SOCIAL RESPONSE are called for?

Oh– that would require real thought, the need to face the fact that none of us can “throw the first stone”… that there are no easy answers…

Never mind. We in the US don’t do all that heavy lifting. We like self satisfied condemnation of “them”– the stupid/bad ones. Much easier and more fun. Until the worm turns and WE are among the imperfect… the harmed.

it’s going to be your turn some day, whoever you are. Wait and see.

David Bratton October 26, 2007 at 1:47 am

What if– hold on to your hats– COOPERATION AND COMPASSIONATE SOCIAL RESPONSE are called for?

What is called for is the sale of all the public lands on the open market. After that if your land constitutes a hazard to mine I’ll sue you until you remove the hazard or until I own your land.

TLWP Sam October 26, 2007 at 2:02 am

Eh. Wasn’t there criticism of New Orleans to the tune of “you’re living in a area where there hurricanes as well as being below sea level and act suprised when a serious natural disaster causes a major catastrophe!?”? Similarly, why do some people like living in the middle of Tornado Central where losing your home is an event that wlll be expected from time-to-time? Likewise for some reason people apparently like living in Bushfire Central and act surprised when every now-and-then their houses are burnt down.

David Bratton October 26, 2007 at 2:28 am

The solution for New Orleans is to privatize both the land and the levies. Then let the whole risk/value/liability process work itself out in the market. I’m sure someone will want that land for something, though it might not be for housing.

MrJekyll October 26, 2007 at 6:14 am

Maybe living somewhere where you don’t have to worry about fires burning you out each year would be a good start. But why would you expect common sense from anyone in CA.It’s ok though. The fires will die soon, you’ll have your lul, then you you get to worry about the drought. YAY!!

PS CA: Fires usually don’t jump over mountains.

Robert M. October 26, 2007 at 11:57 am

Carroll, what you’re really asking for when you ask for a “compassionate social response” is for the government to take money out of my pocket and put it into yours.

Suppose my car has just died and I can’t get to work so that I can feed my family. The money to fix my car is then taken from me by the government in order to rebuild a house for someone who purchased a house in a risky location. As a result, you get a shiny new house that will once again burn down and my kids don’t have clothes for school.

Socialists that feel like society owes you something and can’t see where that money is coming from amaze me with their ignorance.

Anthony October 26, 2007 at 12:30 pm

BTW, does anyone else here think that it is in fact coerced socialization, i.e. the idea that man must be forced into being ‘social’ (in some vague and extremely abstract sense) that is the sociopathic one, and not that of individual responsibility? I don’t see how socializing one’s costs is in any way not sociopathic.

Henry Miller October 28, 2007 at 6:36 pm

I live in “tornado alley” As such I have prepared for it – my house as a basement (like almost all houses in my area) where I can go in case of tornado and be safe. I also have up to date tornado insurance, so if one happens to me (statically it won’t) I can rebuild without relying on government.

There have been no significant earthquakes (3 max on the rictor scale) in my area in known history. I suppose if an major earthquake would happen to me I wouldn’t be protected.

The fires in California are in an area where fires are known to happen often. In fact some trees in that part won’t release seeds until after a fire! As such I expect everyone who lives in that area to have a plan in place for the next fire. I understand earthquakes happen in that area, so I expect their plans cover earthquakes as well, not to mention mudslides (which often happen a year after the fire).

If those people were flooded out I would have some sympathy, because who expects a flood high up a mountain.

theoldfarmer October 28, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Re: “But why would you expect common sense from anyone in CA.”

A good question but incomplete. Things are no different in CA then elsewhere. There are individuals who do not understand the reality of building in potential fire zones BUT MAY I especially amend this to end: “from anyone in CA Government” ? County and State zoning allowed homes to be exposed to wild fire danger.

I am an over 80 year old Northern California farmer of a 114 acre “Poor Farm” since Feb. 1942. I am also a WW2 Vet (Army Tank Commander/Squad Leader at age 18). Father of five adult children.
Even though over the hill, I like to believe that I and many other Californians have the common sense to come in out of the rain, even though a little rain would feel good now, and to apply common sense to other matters.

Thanks for the perhaps unintended humor of your remark. There are many solutions to the fire problem but indeed more common sense is required then presently practiced individually and governmentally. Nevertheless, our prayers are with those who have experienced loss.

I was a radial engine mechanic for the “Borate Bombers” (fire fighting aircraft) from the start in California 1955-1956. So I understand and appreciate the recent contributions of all firefighters.

TokyoTom October 29, 2007 at 1:21 am


What is called for is the sale of all the public lands on the open market. After that if your land constitutes a hazard to mine I’ll sue you until you remove the hazard or until I own your land.

I’m with you on the first, but the second is nonsense. People moving into an area assume the environmental risks there. If you move into an avalanche zone you have no right to demand that the mountain owner build protection for you. The hazard here is created by nature, not man.

Eric October 29, 2007 at 5:02 pm


I think that the issue is who moved in first. Rothbard did a lot of thinking on this. If I move to an area and there’s nobody there, then leaving brush on my property is my business. If you then move close by, you should know of the risks, and not be allowed to sue me. I believe this was Rothbards ideas on the matter.

I think an important point is that most of these fires occurred on government owned and un-managed property. If I have to clear my brush, by law, each year, why does the government land get a pass.

Also, there is a public fire dept monopoly. And the roads are public too. This means that private fire protection is squeezed out. So, I would agree that the entire area should be made private, including the roads. Then the homeowners could decide amongst themselves how they want to deal with the fire hazzards. Insurance companies might be the best solution, since they have an incentive to keep fires from destroying property, whilst the government has little concern.

TokyoTom October 30, 2007 at 12:21 am

If I have to clear my brush, by law, each year, why does the government land get a pass.

I’m afraid I’m not following your premises here, Eric. Care to elaborate?

Flatlander October 31, 2007 at 8:38 pm

“If I have to clear my brush, by law, each year, why does the government land get a pass.”

Should the government also control the oceans so that coastal homeowners are immune from nature?

Why not let the people who live in these naturally dangerous areas pay for it, why should everyone have to pay? That way if you can not afford the “wilderness” lifestyle, the rest of us do not have to pay for it.

Anthony October 31, 2007 at 9:37 pm

Which would appear to be the most sensible thing.

TokyoTom November 1, 2007 at 12:26 am

The real problem here, of course, is government ownership and all of the various misincentives that flow from it.

The century of fire suppression that caused is the chief factors in forest fires today (while benefitting local property owners) is now being used by the USFS to justify firefighting budgets that exceed $1 billion annually (again, mainly to benefit those who live in and around forests).

Either direct privatization or establishment of local forest trusts that operate solely from their own revenues will have much better incentives to minimize costs and maximize revenues from highest-value uses (including recreation), and will remove the firefighting subsidy that generates the moral hazard of people (wealthy enviros?) moving to risk.

georgekevin August 14, 2008 at 5:18 am

I agree that there is a al-qaida behind the California fire but government should rebuild.

George Kevin

California Drug Treatment

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