Burning down the house(s)

The raging California wildfires . . . on Wednesday, killing one firefighter and destroying hundreds more homes . . . It was the first firefighter death in a series of fires that have killed at least 17 other people. The wildfires, now in their ninth day, have consumed nearly 660,000 acres and destroyed more than 2,400 homes, the state Office of Emergency Services reported. Damage estimates exceed $2 billion, but that figure is expected to rise substantially . . . The fires are now one of the deadliest and costliest disasters in California. And officials warn that the damage could become far worse, as shifting and gusting winds blow the fire toward huge stands of large pine trees killed by drought . . .

nytimes.com/2003/10/30/national/30FIRE.html

:frowning: :frowning: :frowning:

People talk about terrorists blowing themselves up or gunning down people, but this is the stuff that scares me. Imagine the damage five terrorists armed with matches could do if they wanted to start forest fires. Look at how many resources it tied up and how much damage it did when arsonists started forest fires in Australia a year ago that eventually destroyed houses in Sydney’s suburbs. Scary.

The FBI sent out a warning this past summer. The Israelis have had terrorists setting forest fires since the 1980s.

foxnews.com/story/0,2933,91735,00.html

Actually it was Canberra, not Sydney. The freaky thing about that was Canberra is connected by bush - they call it the “bush capital” after all. I used to live there and in summer you could see how a fire could just totally devastate the place.

Out of interest, are they blaming Australian eucalyptys for the Californian fires this time around?

HG

I think the primary culprits that are usually blamed for California’s fires are the hot temperatures and drought that dry out the hillsides and warm Santa Ana winds that fan the flames. And in this case I read that at least two arsonists are suspected, along with a stupid hunter who got lost and lit a fire so people could find him.

But the vegetation does play a factor. We’ve got lot’s of manzanita, that I believe is highly combustible. And, yes, I’ve heard the story from dozens of people about how the early California settlers brought back the wrong eucalyptus from Australia – trees that are said to be too crooked for lumber, don’t burn well enough for firewood and shed their bark in a big heap on the ground creating a fire hazard. I love the trees and get wistful for California whenever I see a stand of eucalyptus. But I’ve wondered, does Australia really have “better” species of eucalyptus that are straighter or don’t shed all their bark?

I think the bark shedding is universal. Actually its said to be a protection against the aboriginal “farming” method of torching a place after they’ve been through it. The bark collected at the base causes the fire to scorch the exterior and seal in the heart of the tree from the worst of the fire. Many trees in Australia require fire to open the seeds. A response to thousands of years of aboriginal “farming”.

But there are iindeed straight and good for timbering eucalypts. Jarrah and Karris in Western Australia are a good example. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/wildworld/profiles/photos/aa/aa1204a.html Sturdy hardwood it is too. In fact they’re in the process of ripping the heart out off the bulk of almost all old growth forests in Australia as I tap. They replace the old forests with faster growing Tasmanian Blue gums.

HG

MT,

What part of California are you from?

Many parts. Born in Bay Area, parents now live in E. Bay, but I’ve lived in San Diego and Humboldt County (and many years on the E Coast). Despite it’s troubles lately I love that state – mountains, ocean, forests, great cities, liberal innovative open-minded freedom-loving people, etc. It truly is the Golden State. My brother’s trying to convince me to move to Colorado upon my eventual return, and that’s a great state too, but it’s hard to resist the draw of California. How about you?

A little community in the Sierra Nevada foothills, near Sequoia National Park. My dad grows the best oranges in the world…just like candy :smiley:

I really love California too. Great place. Went to school in Santa Barbara (used to hangout a little bit with Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Great road trips.

If I ever move back to California, I would live in Cambria(near Hearst Castle).

I breaks my heart to see this fire destroy so many lives and so much property.

[quote=“Durins Bane”]I really love California too. Great place. Went to school in Santa Barbara (used to hangout a little bit with Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers). Great road trips.

If I ever move back to California, I would live in Cambria(near Hearst Castle).

I breaks my heart to see this fire destroy so many lives and so much property.[/quote]

Agree, I miss the sunny calif and the traffic free freeway. One of my friend’s house was in San Beradino and it got destory :cry: but thank god he, his wife and the cutie boy are all safe!!

Please pray for them…

[quote]A response to thousands of years of aboriginal “farming”.
[/quote]
This sounds a bit off to me. Aboriginals have only been around for what, 40,000-60,000 years. Are you saying that the trees managed to evolve in such a way in such a tiny amount of time? I can’t see it. And slash-and-burn agriculture has been used by primitive people all over the world since the stone age, so why haven’t other tree species evolved in this way?

I agree. It may be a trait that developed because those that had it were better at surviving natural wildfires but I don’t think its due to aborigines. I remember learning in a botany class in San Diego that many species of wildflowers and other vegetation have thick seeds and need fire to scorch them so they can germinate. Thus, after wildfires in California one often sees beautiful displays of wildflowers.

a big factor this year is that bark beetles killed a crapload of trees. was hearing that some places 70% of the trees were dead and perfect fuel for a fire.

last saturday was particularly strange. i live in orange county which has been spared, but last saturday at noon the whole county was covered in a volcanic haze. there was a layer of ash over everything and the strench of smoke. you could look up at the sun and see the sunspots through the smoke.

you guys seen this pic yet?

earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Natura … 99_lrg.jpg

that was last week when the fires were half the size they are now, too. :frowning:

Well actually, aborigines have been stomping around for more like 120,000 years - probably more, but they just can’t prove it. In any case, its not solely due to them but let’s say they gave the theory of evolution a bit of a kick up the arse.

Australia was once covered by thick rainforest and had a vast inland sea -the very inland sea many explorers died hunting for. Obviously climactic conditions shifted and some vegetation benefited while others perished. Animals too.

Fact remains, many Australian trees require fire to seed and the pattern is for the grass and shrubs to to dry out in summer setting the stage for rapid but fairly low intensity fires.

Aborigines were mostly migratory hunter gatherers, not slash and burn farmers. They’d torch a whole area as they moved off to encourage fresh growth and to attract certain animals for their next visit.

The Australian CSIRO is currently looking at these tradional burn-offs and actually employing aborigines to do controlled burns in certain areas to stave off the likes of the big fires hitting California now.

Essentially a combined factor of climactic shift, possibly in some way related to the arrival of the aborigines, in addition to evolution led to hard arsed trees and shrubs that like a good roasting. Those that don’t disapeared. The idea is cautiousluy accepted in Australai because some environmentalitst are concerned that re-introducing these big burns will upset the apple cart.

(in extreme haste)

HG

[quote=“sandman”][quote]A response to thousands of years of aboriginal “farming”.
[/quote]
This sounds a bit off to me. Aboriginals have only been around for what, 40,000-60,000 years. Are you saying that the trees managed to evolve in such a way in such a tiny amount of time? I can’t see it. And slash-and-burn agriculture has been used by primitive people all over the world since the stone age, so why haven’t other tree species evolved in this way?[/quote]
May I suggest reading a lovely book called The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time? The author won a Pulitzer for it. An excellent discussion of how evolution works on a day-to-day basis.

40,000 years? You can do a lot in 40,000 years.

Hey Flipper, how about this one:

That’s Las Vegas, all smoked out from the California fires!

Thanks for that, Mapodofu. I ordered the book as soon as I saw your post. Looks really interesting.