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June 30, 2014


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Now, now; there are tributes to the burned alive crew on most TV stations and a collection of mylar balloons- why fan the flames of discontent?

I'm reading today in the Prescott Courier about uninsured Yarnell homeowners (no insurance company would issue them policies because of known fire risk) rebuilding in the same spots, partly thanks to donations. Save your column as a template for the next time...

I was with Mormon Lake Hotshots from '87-'90.

I've been on 120-150 fires, ranging from 1/10 acre (or less) to 450,000 acres. My crew was "burned over" six times - never pulled shelters once.

I'm going to say something here that I haven't said outside a small circle of people. Something that may mark me with your friends and readers as a heartless asshole. The truth is a hard thing to bear, sometimes.

It was the crew chief's fault, period.

My boss used to say, "If you boys have to pull shelters, I haven't done my job." That valley was a killing zone; I could tell from a photo posted on Facebook.

Natural wind drift alone would make that a dangerous place to be during a fire. The fuel load is the type that burns hot and fast. With a stiff breeze, death would be certain, as it was. Only a fool, or a vainglorious jackass would go into that valley, leaving a safe zone, and without having been in contact with his lookout for some time. Only an idiot, or an untrained newbie would follow him. Few USFS crews would get themselves into such a situation.

In 1998, on the Brewer Fire in eastern Montana, shots from Montana IHC and Prineville IHC (Inter-agency Hotshot Crew) were forced to pull shelters. They were lucky; they managed to get to a small meadow and avoided death. Two days later, 5 crews, including Mormon Lake and Happy Valley Hotshots from AZ, faced down a 120 ft wall of flame. We backfired into that bitch and knocked it dead. Every last one of us was close enough to die. One of our squad bosses was friends with a guy from the Montana crew. The word on the downlow was that the Prineville boss had made a critical mistake, something that never came out in the investigation (there's always an investigation when shelters are pulled).

Six years later, Prineville followed that same boss onto Storm King mountain. Most of them died there. Funny how the smokejumpers in the same area knew how to get out.

Mann Gulch was one of the most terrifying stories I've ever read. A tale of inexperience and ignorance and a fire that would scare the shit out of an experienced 'shot even today. These days crews don't get near that sort of situation - that crew should have been on the other side of that ridge. And that is my point - Granite Mountain was in a safe zone, something those boys at Mann Gulch wouldn't even know about. Fires like that were part of the case history that lead to the modern firefighting techniques that are supposed to keep the crews alive.

I was also on the Dude fire in '90; my crew was coming back from a fire in the Sangre de Cristo Mts. As soon as we were in radio range (Winslow), we were sent to the Rim and deployed along the Crook Highway, where we spent the next 38 hours or so burning the top 200 ft of the Rim in order to stop the fire from running a good 2000 ft straight up into the Coconino. We were working the day the shit hit the fan. That was a freak occurrence; the wind shifted suddenly and unpredictably. Despite our efforts the fire shot up the Rim and started hundreds of spot fires behind us. The firefighters that died that day were from a "con crew" (prisoners). They were a category II crew, the type that is sent to stabilized areas to hold the line and mop up (below the Rim on the Tonto). They died in a totally unexpected hellstorm that blew up a little valley that had already burned. There are plenty of situations like that, where people die or survive only by the turn of fate.

That wasn't the case in Yarnell. People knew what to expect. People knew what they should do. They didn't do that, and they died.

I had a bad day, my IQ sunk below a 100.
Someone please explain to me why we are "fighting" forest fires.
Roy Dawn Chong

Emil, great posts on The Troll column.
I was hoping you would get onto it and you did, loved the humor.

I have been married to two American Indians both of who advised me "their people never pitched a tent in a river bed"

OK a Tepee.

@Mark: Thanks for your analysis of the Yarnell event. That’s pretty much what I thought when I read the narrative of the event. I don’t know shit about fire-fighting – but my main thought was that the main problem was way too much macho bullshit at work.

@Cal: don’t camp under a dead tree either.

Arizona and Southern California can look for many more and worse fires. Oddly enough this will be caused by global cooling. This results in regional weather patterns changing. One of these changes is severe droughts for your area. And this is not for a year to two. We’re talking something line 20 to 100 years of drought.

I remember reading a book with the title of something like “America’s Secret Aristocracy”. One chapter concerned the Spanish residents of early California. After the Mexican-American war – conditions for the land barons remained essentially unchanged. They kept their land-grant ranches; the only real change was now their citizenship was American. The ranches were huge. The Irvine ranch in Orange County was one of the survivors.

Anyway, there was a huge, multi-year drought in California that wiped out most of the Spanish ranchers. But some survived. To this day they remain fabulously wealthy – albeit with very low profiles.

@all: I think it was Ruben who brought up the topic of an “exit strategy”. If I lived in Phoenix I’d have one in place now. I see nothing but bad times for the area. I’d be thinking real hard about what do I do now? I’d be looking to Northern California, the lower mid-west or the Southeast.

wkg, try Uruguay.

Jon, note McCain mentions Yarnell fire.


wkg: left you a thing on "Urban Academies" over on Troll.

Thank you, Mark.

Hopefully, 2014 will bring elected officials who have the courage and leadership it will take to stand up to monied interests and address climate change and its consequences.

@Cal: Re "urban acadamies". Noted. I agree.

Steven Pyne at ASU has written extensively on the subject of wildfire in America- and elsewhere- and with 16 years of experience fighting wildfire on the north rim of the Big Ditch, he has some better insights from that alone than almost anyone else on the subject.

We do like to "fight" fire in this country- break out the planes, the troops, the vehicles- to combat forces that are perfectly natural. Unfortunately, people build their homes in the wildland interface, and they don't care too much for small scrub fires. So, those scrub fires get bigger as detritus and dead and dying vegetative matter builds up. The result- moonscaping, deaths, tragedy.

Time to fight the insanity. No more structural defense of vulnerable habitations in the wildland interface. You build your home in the forest with 300 trees/acre and no buffer zone, you get what you deserve. No more slurry bombers, no more parachuting and helicoptering in. Let lightning fires finish themselves, and make people buy insurance substantial enough to cover the damages from their ATV/truck/fireworks/camp fires in the forest, if they choose to do so. (Well, I can dream, I suppose.)

What a horrible waste of resources, chasing after increasingly damaging fires that could be replaced with regular burns that solve multiple problems at once.

Thank you CJ.
"Quest for Fire"
Roy Dawn Chong

Off subject:
Supreme court OKs stoning?

@Cal: In the South commercial foresters will perform planned burns at any opportunity that presents itself. This is beneficial for a number of different reasons.

I read several books about pre-Columbian America. The Indians in the Northeast would burn their woods every fall. Their agricultural productivity wasn’t too good at the time – so they ran their woods as glorified game parks. Europeans encountering the area described the land as being almost park like.

The question is becoming almost moot for Arizona. I don’t think there is going to be enough rain the immediate future to support a forest as think of it today.

For those formulating an exit strategy might I recommend some places worth looking into: Oklahoma City, Nashville, Birmingham, Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington N.C. and Ashville N.C. I’m partial to smallish sort of cities. Florida is pretty much an arm pit, but Fort Walton/Destin or Panama City are reasonably OK.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. But these are pretty far north and somewhat cold. They’re going to be much colder in the future.

The result of the Yarnell catastrophe is...nothing.

Well not quite.... nothing:


That lawsuit is on top of the lawsuit brought by "more than 160 property owners". We the taxpayers are going to have to pay and pay and pay.

I remember hearing that ‘environmentalists’ were the reason for the catastrophic fires near the Rim a few years back.

The reasoning was that ‘environmentalists’ did not like the smoke from the controlled burns. I know that I was against cutting down the old growth forest, but I had not heard that environmentalist were against controlled burns. I actually think that was a fabrication to blame somebody - anybody for bad forest management, cuts in funding and other socialist ill will for the past 30 yrs.

There were no SMOKEJUMPERS 700 years ago.

Falcon 69
I'm sure that's unintentional and should not be construed?

cal, your comment to Falcon is funny.

The best commentary I have read on Hobby Lobby:
"6) If the United Church of Corporations is in fact a new religious movement, can the Supreme Court be said to have “established” it?"

Suzanne I want a tax exemption from any salaries paid to support politicians that believe in God.

Sparrow Hawk 68

Does Hobby Lobby pay their workers daily?

"At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the Lord, and it be sin unto thee."

Deuteronomy 24:15

Side note: A couple of new posts in the previous thread: one to cal lash re the Amazing resemblance between Mormonism and Islam; and another insanely ignorant Huppenthal blog quote, here:


P.S. A third comment now posted there re the Koran as the multi-decade work of a government committee.

Thanks Emil. In 1960 I delivered by auto route the AZ Republic to the new houses in Moon Valley.
And may you be blessed with three wives and no less than five children.
For my portable bible and cell phone

One more discussing a central aspect of the history of religion (any of them), for cal lash (or whomever), in the previous thread.

Emil left you a note on Evil.
on Troll
Trolling, now there is an interesting word that one can apply to given situations.

@all: I’m with Cal on this one: move out into the sticks at your peril. Don’t look to us for fire protection, police, EMS, school buses or anything else. You’re on your own. Good luck.

But here’s the giant disconnect: many city services are vastly inferior to “county services’ (for lack of a better word). Everything should be better in the city: but it’s not.

There is a theory of local governmental services: high taxes/high service, low taxes/low service. Many cities are providing a high tax/low service product.

WKG, found a place for you.

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