By Norris McDonald
President Trump is threatening to withhold emergency relief funds via the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) if California does not provide better management of its wildfire programs.
The president is right to criticize California’s wildfire program. It is virtually nonexistent to the extent that most of these wildfires could be prevented with proper management programs. Center research indicates that there is an entrenched wildfire industrial complex that resists preventing wildfires because it would cut its budgets and power. Current wildfire efforts enjoy a vast array of personnel and equipment from airplanes and helicopters to trucks and gear. The institutions want more equipment and more gear and higher budgets, not less.
Although California has wildfire mitigation programs, they are woefully inadequate. The Center is proposing firebreaks combined with wood chip to electricity plants to mitigate wildfires. We believe that over 90% of wildfires in the state could be prevented. But such prevention would require massive and extensive firebreaks. Unfortunately, for the wildfire industrial complex, such prevention would lead to massive cuts in their budgets and operations. These activities and equipment would be reassigned to prevention. Thus, President Trump is right to challenge current practices. All of America looks at California each year and wonders why the massive wildfires occur. (The Atlantic, 1/10/2019)