"The Yosemite fire is the highest priority in the nation" blares the USA Today headline. And it's easy to understand why. The fire is about to destroy the water supply to 2.6 million people in San Francisco. Several towns may be wiped out. A lot of people are upset that the majestic Sequoia's may be consumed by fire. They won't. The media needs to educate the tree lovers that sequoias will be fine. National Geographic explains how here. The gist is that Yosemite sequoias are protected by the selective burns done around them every year to keep the ground clear of combustible material. Sequoia's actually need fires to survive as the article explains, and by letting the fires burn on a regular basis the sequoia's are protected. What's not protected are the area's that aren't allow to burn.
About 2 months ago 19 forest fire fighters died when a fire started by lightening overtook them. I wrote at the time that the US has been hurting forests and killing people for decades since we instituted our policy of forest fire conatinment. America's forests had thrived for all of human history and then in the late 1800's we decided to "help" nature. By not allowing the forests to clear their brush the way they were supposed to we were packing the forests with more and more flammable materials. So every fire becomes hotter.
Only about 30% of the U.S. is currently covered with forests. We need to preserve what we have left. And that means letting them burn when they are on fire. It's not that simple obviously. I think it also means better city planning. When building new communities there needs to be a buffer between the forest and the development. That will make it more difficult to get permits, but that would also stop fires from jumping into the community. That would alleviate most of the burden of fire fighting. If there is no potential loss of life or property we could let the fires burn.
In the 1970's Japan implemented the fire belt rule and their country is 60% covered with forests! They still have aircraft's who drop fire retardent and education for the public (as demonstrated by their awesome poster below) they just make sure the forrest fires can't jump to civilization.
In 1995 the US changed our official policy on forrest fires to "Wildland fire, as a critical natural process, must be reintroduced into the ecosystem.” But because we continue to allow communities to build in and around the forests we aren't able to impliment that change. And every year we don't implement the change, the fires get hotter and hotter.