Romney calls for early detection, logging to stop wildfires

A girl wades through water while watching a wildfire burn in the Cleveland National Forest in Lake Elsinore, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Evacuations have been ordered for several small mountain communities near where a forest fire continues to grow in Southern California. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As wildfires ravage the U.S. West, Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney has called for more logging and a high-tech early detection system in a plan that was met with some skepticism.

Romney, a candidate in Utah, said in an essay that more logging would thin out forests and clear dead timber so fires have less fuel.

FILE – In this Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018, file photo, a U.S. Air Force plane drops fire retardant on a burning hillside in the Ranch Fire in Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Authorities say a rapidly expanding Northern California wildfire burning over an area the size of Los Angeles has become the state’s largest blaze in recorded history. It’s the second year in a row that California has recorded the state’s largest wildfire. (AP Photo/Josh Edelson, File)

“If the devastation of wildfires were being caused by a foreign enemy rather than by natural causes, we would do and spend whatever it took to stop it,” he wrote.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke also advocated for thinning out forests in a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday, as California fights its largest wildfire in state history.

Zinke took aim at “radical environmentalists,” who oppose logging, but Romney said there could be common ground if stopping fires meant saving animals and habitat.

Romney’s Democratic Senate opponent Jenny Wilson lauded protective measures but said Romney’s plan misses the mark by not specifically addressing climate change-linked factors such as warmer weather and drought.

We must address climate change as a national crisis in order to protect the American West,” she said in a statement.

Romney said he also wants to beef up regional firefighter resources and create an early detection system of drones, satellites and sensors. Romney’s campaign didn’t provide additional detail on his ideas.

Firefighters monitor a backfire while battling the Ranch Fire, part of the Mendocino Complex Fire, on Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, near Ladoga, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

Fire experts said an early detection system isn’t at the top of their wish list. The Utah governor’s office agreed with most of Romney’s plan but said most wildfires are spotted and suppressed quickly.

“We believe that prevention, preparedness and suppression response capacity should be the top priorities for investment,” said Paul Edwards, deputy chief of staff for communications and policy.

Such a system would likely be expensive and would only help with a small portion of wildfires — ones that start at night when people are asleep and are fast-moving near urban areas, said Tom Cova, director of the University of Utah’s Center for Natural and Technological Hazards.

Detection of wildfires is not really a problem,” Cova said. More logging would help but wouldn’t solve the problem, he said.

Firefighters use human spotters in lookout towers. There are also cameras placed on existing cell towers on mountaintops in many Western states, including Nevada and California, said Jessica Gardetto, spokeswoman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Money spent thinning forests of weeds and other vegetation, especially near buildings, is well spent, she said.

NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold captured Earth observation imagery of wildfires on Aug. 3, 2018, from his vantage point aboard the International Space Station. The largest wildfire ever recorded in California needed just 11 days to blacken an area nearly the size of Los Angeles — and it’s only one of many enormous blazes that could make this the worst fire season in state history. ( Ricky Arnold/NASA via AP)

Wildfires are a confluence of many factors, including longer, hotter summers, she said.

“We’re seeing more of a fire year whereas we were seeing fire seasons in the past,” she said.

Nearly 1,000 fires large and small have been sparked in Utah alone this year, costing some $60 million to fight, the state said.

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Associated Press reported Brady McCombs contributed to this report.

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2 Comments

  • Terry Boharsik August 10, 2018 at 1:15 pm Reply

    Let’s hope some kind of agreement can be made. Doesn’t smoke increase the effects of global warming too?

    Here’s a study that was done: https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2597/smoke-from-wildfires-can-have-lasting-climate-impact/

    So isn’t it better to try to balance out not allowing too much fuel to be available for fires to burn for an extended amount of time until the fuel is completely burnt out.

  • Voter August 10, 2018 at 6:25 pm Reply

    The environmentalists in California would not allow the removal of dead trees leading to this conflagration. The global warming/environmental extremists are not interested in either. Their real goal is political and economic control.

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