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What Trump gets dangerously wrong about the wildfires

Right now,...

Posted: Aug 8, 2018 10:21 AM
Updated: Aug 8, 2018 10:21 AM

Right now, 100 fires are burning across the West, including the Mendocino Complex fire in California -- the largest wildfire in the state's history. Thousands of firefighters and support personnel are working tirelessly to protect life and property. As the number of acres burned continues to climb, it's clear that wildfires are now a year-round threat that cannot be ignored. Families have lost loved ones, homes and businesses -- and many are still under evacuation orders with no idea what will await them when they return.

Yet in many important ways President Donald Trump has shown little concern for communities in harm's way -- instead opting to spend his time spreading misinformation about the cause of the wildlife. Though Trump approved a welcome disaster declaration over the weekend, his claim that firefighters don't have enough water to extinguish the fires in California is both blatantly false and unhelpful in relief efforts.

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But perhaps more dangerous than his falsehood is his conflation of two separate issues: water management and wildfires. Such a statement ignores that climate change is the real reason wildfire season has been so intense. Climate change exacerbates wildfires by creating warmer and drier conditions, which in turn lead to longer fire seasons. Getting the cause wrong prevents real risk analysis and points to ineffective solutions.

Time and again, we've seen Trump deny the obvious. He promises he will bring "clean, beautiful coal" back, despite clear economic evidence to the contrary. He proclaims his support for clean air and water, as his administration works overtime trying to dismantle safeguards for the air we breathe and the water we drink. He promises to remember those who have been forgotten, despite repeated proposals that would put the most vulnerable -- families living near sources of pollution -- at greatest risk.

And he refuses to accept climate change, despite compelling scientific evidence and its highly visible on-the-ground effects in the changing nature of, for example, wildfires. His consistent failure to see the fire for the smoke has real-life implications for the millions of people across the country who live in communities that could potentially be threatened by enormous blazes.

Unfortunately, a changing climate has increased the risk of more frequent and more intense fires. Fire season today is 20% longer than it was 35 years ago as a result of rising global temperatures, and we can expect fire areas to expand to cover even more of the United States in the near future. Failure to follow a rational forest management will put us in peril.

Science has shown that one way to lessen the risk of huge, out-of-control fires is actually to allow regular natural fires, or purposeful controlled burns, set intentionally to improve forest health. And there it is, the key word: science. Fire and forest management must be based on sound science and adapt with changing conditions and findings -- rather than clinging to ineffective practices of the past. Fires, even large ones, have always been a part of nature. They play an important role in keeping forests healthy.

Healthy forests are also one of our best defenses against climate change. While logging them out of existence might profit a few corporate timber producers, it won't save our communities. Of course, we need to be fire smart. Trees threatening public safety, roads and homes should be removed.

"Fuel breaks," which control the spread of fire, should be established near communities, and there should be adequate defensible space around structures. Many at-risk structures can be saved if they are properly designed and maintained to withstand fire.

All those steps, however, have little to do with industrial logging and tree plantations, which fail to provide the benefits of a natural forest and can actually increase the probability of large, uncharacteristic fires.

The scientific consensus today, reinforced by the terrible fires across the country, is that our climate is already changing. In response, we must focus on adequately funding firefighting and management efforts, direct fire-prevention dollars to areas where people live and work, and create fire-smart communities.

The long-term safety of the more than 40 million homes in wildfire-prone areas, however, will depend on how effectively we address the atmospheric pollution that is driving global warming. That means building cleaner cars, halting dirty fuel development on public lands and moving our industries away from ones that create pollution -- like coal-fired power plants and inefficient cars -- all of which Trump is actively working against.

It's up to all of us to ensure that Trump's spurious calls for water don't distract us from the real solutions that are within our reach.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 111505

Reported Deaths: 3506
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Marion20699758
Lake10217318
Elkhart6368109
St. Joseph604597
Allen5965200
Hamilton4676109
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Hendricks2650122
Monroe240836
Johnson2257122
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Cass19319
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Madison157775
LaPorte136737
Floyd130361
Howard127563
Kosciusko119017
Bartholomew114957
Warrick114135
Marshall98524
Dubois94918
Boone94446
Hancock90542
Grant88233
Noble88132
Henry76324
Wayne73914
Jackson7349
Morgan69638
Shelby66529
Daviess64127
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Clinton59112
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Knox4869
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Posey3020
Franklin29725
Clay2925
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Carroll27013
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Washington2581
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Wells2472
Adams2443
Jefferson2433
Fulton2352
Huntington2213
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Jay1700
Newton17011
Owen1641
Martin1620
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Pulaski1141
Blackford1132
Crawford1030
Brown1013
Parke932
Benton880
Union770
Ohio767
Switzerland680
Warren401
Unassigned0225

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 144309

Reported Deaths: 4615
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin25977603
Cuyahoga17092642
Hamilton12756308
Montgomery7501152
Lucas7119357
Butler563299
Summit5096249
Marion306347
Mahoning2991279
Warren291048
Stark2739168
Pickaway263344
Lorain226386
Delaware213520
Fairfield202050
Columbiana191980
Licking185762
Trumbull1848131
Clark172338
Wood170671
Clermont162620
Lake157649
Medina143038
Allen136767
Greene135228
Miami135049
Portage107466
Mercer105317
Tuscarawas91220
Wayne90166
Erie89944
Ross85622
Richland78419
Madison78012
Darke76039
Belmont70727
Geauga70347
Hancock6579
Ashtabula64348
Athens5972
Lawrence59418
Shelby5819
Auglaize5659
Sandusky55420
Putnam54123
Huron5237
Union4932
Ottawa46530
Scioto4646
Seneca43914
Preble42013
Holmes3717
Muskingum3712
Jefferson3184
Henry29712
Champaign2933
Logan2933
Perry2859
Defiance28110
Clinton27813
Knox27815
Brown2752
Hardin25013
Morrow2492
Washington24823
Fulton2341
Jackson2314
Coshocton23011
Fayette2256
Ashland2234
Highland2203
Crawford2186
Wyandot20112
Williams1983
Gallia18012
Meigs1729
Hocking1619
Pike1580
Guernsey1567
Carroll1507
Adams1214
Van Wert1113
Monroe10618
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Harrison611
Morgan470
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Noble270
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