Why California burns — its forests have too many trees

by T.M. Bonnicksen, November 12, 2018 in San FranciscoChronicle

The reason wildfires are burning California with unprecedented ferocity this year is because our public forests are so thick. It is our fault. We don’t manage our forests, we just let them grow. That is the simple truth. However, it is easier to deny the truth and blame a warming climate instead of admitting our guilt and taking action to prevent wildfires.

Hot, dry weather doesn’t cause catastrophic wildfires. It only makes them worse. In order for any fire to burn, it must have fuel. To spread wildly, it must have abundant fuel. Efforts in the 20th century to prevent fire and preserve forests have been too successful — they have disrupted the ecological balance and allowed more and more trees to grow.