Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007 | Kay Stewart makes several excellent points in her article, “Fight The Embers Not Just The Fuel.” She notes that “fire experts” say we need to reduce the fuel. Yes, there are some people saying this, but there are also many fire experts saying fuel is not the biggest part of the problem.
She goes on to write about homes that need significant improvement in the battle against wildfires and discusses the costs involved. Certainly there needs to be increased awareness and improvements by homeowners. I suggest it would be much cheaper for the government to spend our money instead on improving its ability to spot and quell fires much quicker than happens today. Stopping these fires much earlier is the most effective way by far, to save lives, money, natural habitat and worry for everyone. Both the 2003 and 2007 fires were discovered soon after they began, and they could have been stopped much, much earlier with the right attention and equipment. Someone has written about using our own Predators to battle fires, for example. These unmanned aircraft can fly in riskier conditions and hold 350 gallons of fire-fighting foam. This may not seem like much, but consider that it would be dropped much, much earlier in an outbreak than happens today. Any attack by six or seven or 10 Predators would have an enormous effect on a newly-begun fire, and stop it in its tracks before it roared into a major fire.
I understand Predators have infrared cameras, which can see through smoke, allowing the controller to pinpoint the flames and dump their load at the best possible location.
A major factor in fires getting out of control is that they typically start in remote areas of the county, where it’s tougher to apply suppression resources early. This is the real problem. We should be able to develop better tools for detecting and squashing these fires early. This will cost the least, happen much quicker, and be the most effective method in dealing with the fires we know will continue to start.