As the annual wildfires rage in California yet again, the ongoing battle of "significant disagreements" between locals and the U.S. Forest Service rages along with it.
Locals want to snuff out the wildfires in federal lands before they get a chance to spread to populated areas, while a federal "let it burn" policy is reckless, local officials told the L.A. Times.
"In my jurisdiction, I have been super aggressive in trying to put [fires] out small," a local fire chief Scott Packwood told the Times. "The Forest Service has different rules they work by."
The outgoing Forest Service Vicki Christiansen, who stepped down last month, had called wildfires "an important land treatment tool" which means "accepting short-term risks for longer term reductions in risk."
Gov. Gavin Newsom denounced the decades-old "wait and see" approach as "the elephant in the room" in a virtual meeting with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Western state governors, in seeking federal aid for wildfires.
"You can't just walk away, not with this climate, not with this drought," Newsom said last week, according to the Times. "This is life and death, and we can't just fight fires the way we did 20, 30, 40 years ago anymore."
The problem, despite the small recent out-migration of Californians in recent years, is urban sprawl in the state, according to experts.
"The 1930s, which we know from John Steinbeck as the Dust Bowl, was just as dry as today, maybe even drier, and we had horrific fires then," Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics Executive Director Stahl told the Times. "Entire towns were wiped out, but they had 10 people in them. Now we have Los Angeles in the way."
Climate activists are denying natural wildfire events in the area, he said, adding blaming the Forest Service or federal authorities is akin to "saying the U.S. Geological Service should be more aggressive in preventing earthquakes.
"With fire, we seem to have a completely different, arrogant attitude that we can control this aspect of nature, and we can't," he concluded.
Congress allocated more than $6 billion for wildfires, including more than half earmarked for fire suppression during the Trump administration.
The Biden administration has plans for more spending, according to the report.
California's 5,600 fire starts thus far in 2021 are a record to date, as a record of more than 480,000 acres have already burned, according to the Times.
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