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December 23, 2008

2008 California Fire Season Ends Where It Began

 
Just as I offered the 2008 California wildfire "season" was closed friend of Firefighter Blog Big Sur Kate reported a 10 acre fire on her coast. This is surely the final punctuation mark on the most destructive wildfire season in California history.

The season began with a small roadside blaze in Big Sur on April 17 and ends with a small roadside blaze in Big Sur on December 21.

It's almost fitting since the largest fires of the season were centered in the central coast paradise. The Indians Fire and the monstrous Basin Complex haunted the coast throughout the summer months.

There is a symmetry here that is more fitting for an epic novel but this was real life. It's really time to close the book on 2008.

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December 22, 2008

Finally, 2008 Fire Season Over!

 

Chill Map

Stop the presses: Update!

Challenging everything I thought I knew about wildfire in California Big Sur Kate reports a 10 acre wildfire on her coast!

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December 16, 2008

Cal Fire's Contribution To Budget Crisis, 160 Seasonal Firefighters

 
Making the point that the department is basically immune from the state budget crisis Cal Fire offered up some modest cuts by laying off seasonal firefighters in Riverside County. The Press Enterprise (PE.com) offers up particulars that include the shuddering of seasonal stations.

Seasonal firefighters used to be hired in May and released in September. Seasonal stations used to be fully staffed only during the fire season then closed for the winter months.

In the aftermath of the Cedar Fire pressure was put on the state to staff stations in Southern California year round. In response Cal Fire extended the seasonal tour to 9 months for some "seasonal" firefighters.

In reality these are phantom budget moves. These positions have been padding for years. These extended seasonal positions were not even in the budget 5 years ago. These easy cuts make state fire officials look like they are contributing. It looks good but six million dollars in savings doesn't cover one-tenth the suppression costs of the Indians Fire back in June.

What is made clear in the PE.com article is the lay-offs will not compromise local firefighting efforts in Riverside County.

For instance;

"Corona Fire Chief David Waltemeyer said without the Cal Fire station, the city may not be able to get assistance as quickly. But he expects few if any wildfires in the next few months.

"I think there are other resources to fill in any gaps that exist," Waltemeyer said. "I don't have any tremendous concerns about it."


If this is the extent of the cuts asked from Cal Fire then the department escaped the mother of all budget deficits unscathed.

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December 12, 2008

Australia's Fire Season Heating Up

 
As you can see from this up to the minute fire mapping tool from NASA the Aussie fire season is underway. Early in the season we see wildfires, or bushfires affecting the Continent from Queensland and parts of the Northern Territory. In a mater of weeks the more populated southern states of New South Wales (Sydney) and Victoria (Melbourne) will see increased activity.


NASA/MODIS Fire Mapper

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December 11, 2008

California Facing "Financial Armageddon"

 
A few thoughts on how the state budget shortfall relates to firefighting, fire resource budgets, equipment and staffing. An overview of the looming budget crisis can be read here in the also failing Los Angeles Times.

If you work for or have ever worked for a state or county government you come to expect the annual budget warnings. Generally your supervisor pops out a memo during a staff meeting that reads "10% staff reductions from all department heads". If you are in the fire suppression or public safety, (law enforcement, corrections) area you know you won't lose your job but the threat will hang over you until the budget is signed.

I'm not so sure jobs won't be on the line this time. This is not a run of the mill budget alarm. This budget crisis in firefighter parlance could be called "The Big One".

Staffing may actually be affected. There is fat, we like to think there isn't but there is plenty of fat. One example, Cal Fire Swanton station in Santa Cruz County near Davenport. The very small seaside community of Davenport is protected by Santa Cruz County Fire. Swanton is empty half the year and the other half of the year staffed by a rotation of two captains, a relief captain or engineer and seasonal firefighters.

The community of Bonny Doon just up the road has been trying to get their own fire district for years. Close Swanton, sell the land and park the CalFire crew from Swanton at the Bonny Doon school for the summer months. Simplistic I know but if the state is facing a "financial Armageddon" some outside the box thinking is required.

I'm not picking on Swanton there are dozens of remote fire stations throughout the state that are redundant or cross served by other jurisdictions.

The biggest fat in the state is in corrections. Correctional officers make a great living, some line officers make $100,000 + per year (a bargain compared to some state averages) but the high prison population is the real cost.

Fit some of these non violent convicts with ankle bracelets and send them home. I'm as law and order as anyone but if the state is hinting at bankruptcy then let's get serious. It costs over $30,000 per year to house and feed an inmate in California. Give them food stamps and send them home.

Caltrans, I really do want the new bridge near my home built but I will be OK without it. Let Obama's new BBC (bridge builder corps) build it. Just fix the potholes and scrape graffiti off the freeway signs.

University of California System, State University System, Community Colleges System, more online offerings. Every college has it's own police force....team with local police.

California Department of Education? Education is a local issue and the people administering local schools would be there without you. Take the entire department down and put those people to work in classrooms or after school programs.


December 10, 2008

Wilderness Society Controlled Burns Education Program

 
The Wilderness Society is kicking off an educational campaign aimed at increasing support and funds for the Forest Service to conduct more control burns.

The Wilderness Society states "Controlled burns protect people and property, restore forests and save taxpayer dollars".

The effort is concentrated initially on the Mendocino National Forest with plans to expand to forests throughout California and the west.

The information center of the campaign is their website Restorethemendo.com.

Take a look at this TV commercial where a local rancher Bill Burrows lends support to the program.

Bill at Wildfire Today offers his opinion on the effort.

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December 05, 2008

Telegraph Fire, Responsible Party Sentenced

 
David Mosher was target shooting along the banks of the Merced River last July when a bullet ricochet ignited tinder dry brush. Mosher reported the blaze that eventually claimed more than 40 homes and other buildings, burned more than 40,000 acres and injured 15 firefighters.

Mosher was sentenced to 60 hours of community service according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Telegraph Fire was covered end to end last summer on Firefighter Blog.

I'm not going to argue if the sentence was appropriate or not. Mosher was target shooting and the fire was an unintended consequence of his actions.

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