There are at least five active wildfires in Valley County, Idaho alone. One of those fires, the Mile Marker 73 Fire, sent WC and Mrs. WC on a gnarly detour along a ridge above the North Fork of the Payette River and Highway 55, our intended route. The detour was along a logging road with a very steep descent – the Banks Grade – back down to the highway, past the fire.
One of the advantages of the detour was exceptional views of a rapidly expanding fire.1
Amazingly, the hot shot fire crews were able to hold the fire to 4,653 acres under very tough conditions: steep hills, hot, dry conditions, wind and single digit humidity. Serious props to the fire crew.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke thinks the cause of all wildfires is the failure to cut enough trees. Except there are no trees on the hillside where the Mile Marker 73 Fire was. It’s sagebrush, bitterbrush and grasses. Not a lot to “harvest” there. Four of the other five Valley County fires were similar. The claim would also come as news to folks in Redding, California, where suburban areas burned.
The fires in Valley County, Idaho are the result of more than five weeks without precipitation, and record and near-record heat. The wildfires are the result of the anthropogenic climate change that Secretary Zinke denies is occurring. Where wildfires have gotten in to forests, the fire is burning hotter because of foolish past policies of the Forest Service and trees that have died as a result of heat stress, or been weakened by the heat and drought and died of diseases and pests they could not fight in their weakened state.
Until we address the reality of climate change, this will be the new normal.
But Secretary Zinke and his buddies in the resource extraction industries don’t see a profit in addressing climate change. Which is how we got where we are and why it’s going to be terribly difficult to change things.
- One of the disadvantages were the fully loaded logging trucks going the opposite direction. Irony tastes a lot like dust and ashes. ↩