La Brea Fire, Maybe Some Fires We Should Let Burn

The practical side of me says pull the plug, send everyone except a few firing crews and bulldozers home and let this one be.

Why? Because in all the landscape of California this is one area God did not bless with a need to exist, that might be harsh, but definitely a place that doesn’t need humans knocking themselves out fighting a fire in.

People have died trying. This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Spanish Ranch tragedy that took the lives of Capt. Ed Marty and firefighters Steve Manley, Ronald Lorant and Scott Cox in the same area.

I alluded to the the 1979 Spanish Ranch Fire in this post, where the four Cal Fire (then CDF) firefighters died on a desolate hillside. The four were from the Nipomo station, my old station.

In some cases it’s OK to let Mother Nature have her way with fire, this may be one of those cases. Judging by the discussion and reporting on wildland Fire there is no water for helicopters and no access for hand crews or engines.

Some would argue there are cabins and ranches that need protection. I counter by asking if there is no access for firefighters and equipment then there are no homes or cabins. Even if there are some old hunting shacks in the path, well time for an upgrade anyway.

I don’t want any one’s son or daughter injured or dead trying to beat a path into the devil’s lair to save a seasonal shack.


  • Mike says:

    I am going to blog on this later. Simple read, She,(Pincha Tulley) wants the DC-10 and the 747 (as well as the Martin Mars) but does not want to pay for it.

    Also notice the lack of personnel, only around 1,200 on a major fire. I thinks the feds suddenly are getting frugal.

  • Mike D. says:

    Dittos back at you Capt. Mike.

    Interesting verbiage in this evening's 209 report:

    "At 1200 the fire entered into Unified Command with Cal Fire because the fire threatens state DPA. The threat is from a slop over off Sierra Madre Road into Foothill Road located in Branch Four. There is a cost share agreement with Cal Fire for “you order you pay”. The slop over Sierra Madre Road in Moon Canyon has the potential to go to the valley floor. Evacuation order issued for the 14 threatened residences on Foothill Road and evacuation warning issued via reverse 911 to the 104 residences in Cottonwood Canyon."

    You order you pay? I think that means the USFS is billing CalFire for any actions that CalFire "orders". Such as the Martin Mars. Who takes responsibility when poorly managed Fed land blows up in a massive fire and threatens private land on the other side of the fence? Evidently CalFire will be billed for suppression actions at the "interface". The old co-op suppression agreements are burning up along with the landscape.

    This development is not reassuring. Your thoughts?

  • Mike says:

    Mike, your viewpoints and words of wisdom are highly valued.

    Thanks for commenting.

  • Mike D. says:

    Agreed on all points. Except that I would add that the lack of any kind of land stewardship over the last few decades has created a monumental hazard. The externalities from megafire, such as the smoke currently inundating the Central Valley, are also deadly.

    If some sort of management had occurred, such as controlled burning in safe months, then a raging megafire in mid-summer might have been avoided, or at least mitigated.

    And there is no easy way to stop megafires at the designated land use boundary. Let It Burn may be okay for unpopulated chaparral hills, but eventually the fire will reach habitated environs, and then the potential damage problems magnify. (That was the case with the Basin Fire, among many others).

  • bigsurkate says:

    And that's the thing — many of these ff are just kids, often from firefighting families, earning summer $$ for college. They want the fires, the adventure, the stories, and the overtime, but they do need the "old-timers" around to keep an eye on them. That's for sure.

    Yes, Storm King is heart-wrenching. I have read it before, but it doesn't stop the tears. What a cluster -f*** that was. I am glad Maclean told the story.

    La Brea is up to 15K??? I haven't seen much in the way of updates this afternoon. In reading Storm King I realized every 2K is 3 square miles, so this one is over 21 square miles? That's phenomenal for just 24 hours. Glad to see P-T's team on it.

  • Mike says:

    That is a heart wrenching story Kate.
    Too many die trying to put out these fires. Maybe I'm getting old or maybe smarter, don't know but I am reassessing my sense of priorities concerning wildfire.

    The business end, such as Pincha-Tulley and her team heading to Cayuma. This ensures the budget on this one will surely go into double digit millions fighting fire in brush that would naturally burn, to the benefit of the environment if left be.

    Mostly it's the kids I am worried about. They sign up for adventure and some Summer money and it's up to the old timers to remind them this is so incredibly dangerous.

    Chasing every flame is unnecessary.

  • bigsurkate says:

    Nothing, even someone's home, is worth the loss of life.

    I am re-reading the story of the South Canyon (Storm King) fire where 14 firefighters lost their lives. I know the lessons from this one, the Esperanza, and others are taught, but sometimes in the excitement of the moment, the lessons can be lost.

    Last report around noon is 5-6K acres. This one is raging!!