Published: 14:42 EST, 14 December 2017 | Updated: 15:22 EST, 14 December 2017
LOS ANGELES (AP) – California's seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is prompting authorities to make plans to set more "controlled burns" to thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that serves as kindling to feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives.
Fighting wildfires that burn out of control is extremely expensive and even when authorities make mammoth efforts to put out the blazes, they can still cause expensive property and infrastructure losses when the flames reach populated areas. In October, thousands of California homes burned and 44 people died from wildfires in the state's most renowned wine region north of San Francisco.
This week, while a fire northwest of Los Angeles still raged after destroying more than 700 homes, the U.S. Forest Service and the state fire agency warned that the threat will remain high even after that blaze is put out because of an estimated 129 million trees that died in California over the last year from drought and beetle infestation.
FILE – In this April 10, 2015 file photo, Monte Rio volunteer firefighter Gabriela Gibson sprays down hot spots on a half-acre fire in timber above Monte Rio, Calif., after a controlled burn crossed containment lines and wind blew embers in to the timber. California's seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more "controlled burns" that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (Kent Porter/Santa Rosa Press Democrat via AP, File)
"It's fuel just waiting to go up in flames," said Daniel Berlant, assistant deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The agencies are planning more aggressive use of so-called prescribed burns, when fire prevention experts identify areas with bone dry "surface fuels" and send in crews to burn it or clear it away using chain saws and heavy equipment.
The state since July 1 has burned 13 square miles (37 square kilometers) of surface fuels such as dry needles, leaves and bark that accumulated over the years and can easily ignite, turning forests into powder kegs, Berlant said. That's more than double the amount cleared three years ago.
The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 31 square miles (80 square kilometers) and for the clearing crews to clean up another 31 square miles. To protect population centers, state and local authorities are also increasing inspections to make sure residential and commercial property owners are maintaining cleared spaces required by law between their properties and forestland.
But the 62 square miles (160 square kilometers) that would be cleared is far smaller than the 1,560 square miles (4,040 kilometers) of land that have been burned by California's wildfires so far this year.
The fire prevention measures will save money in the long run when compared to the huge costs of fighting fires – especially those near communities because so many aircraft and firefighters are rushed in to protect property and lives. The cost over just 11 days to fight the largest wildfire in the Los Angeles-area this month reached $74.7 million on Thursday and was still going up.
Mike De Lasaux, a forester with the University of California's Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the state ideally would burn hundreds of square miles of land with surface fuels annually, but he praised any efforts to reduce dangerously overgrown forests. The current plan moved forward following a recent agreement between state and federal agencies along with environmental, logging and recreational interests.
De Lasaux estimated the risk of the controlled burns running wild and burning homes at less than 2 percent.
But some have turned catastrophic, including a 2000 fire set by U.S. Park Service officials in New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument. High winds whipped the blaze and flames raced through the community of Los Alamos – home to Los Alamos National Laboratory, a nuclear facility and the birthplace of the atomic bomb. More than 400 families lost their homes.
A 2012 burn set by the Colorado State Forest Service southwest of Denver ignited a 6-square-mile (16-square kilometer) wildfire that killed three people and damaged or destroyed more than two dozen homes. Colorado suspended prescribed burns by state agencies for five years and the ban was lifted in October.
Opponents of the burns by authorities contend the fires release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, put lives and property at risk and kill wildlife and old trees that may never grow back. They also question their efficiency because the wildfires are on the rise even though controlled burns have increased.
"Well it's been policy for decades and we still have catastrophic fires worse than ever," said Arthur Firstenberg, a member of the New Mexico-based anti-controlled burn group Once A Forest.
De Lasaux counters that controlled fires produce significantly less smoke than wildfires like the one currently burning in California's heavily populated Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, "destroying all growth in its path" and prompting warnings about unhealthy air.
California officials only send out crews to conducted controlled burns when conditions are considered safe so that fires won't go out of control, Berlant. That means weather conditions with cooler temperatures, high humidity and calm winds, he said.
"Any time there's cooler temperatures we try to get our crews out there," he said. "What we get is a low-intensity fire that's not gonna burn everything in its path – just the grass and ground fuels. It leaves bigger trees safe."
Follow Weber at https://twitter.com/WeberCM.
FILE – In this Oct. 28, 2008 file photo, a firefighter uses a drip torch during a prescribed burn of about 27 acres near Inskip, Calif. California's seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more "controlled burns" that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (Bill Husa/Chico Enterprise-Record via AP, File)
FILE – In this March 10, 2015 file photo, a controlled burn clears about 30 acres along the eastern edge of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in Shasta County, Calif. California's seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more "controlled burns" that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (Andreas Fuhrmann/The Record Searchlight via AP, File)
This Oct. 30, 2017 photo shows a notice warning visitors of controlled-fire operations in Kings Canyon National Park, Calif. California's seemingly endless cycle of wildfires is helping drive plans to do more "controlled burns" that thin forests choked with dead trees and withered underbrush that if left unchecked can feed monster blazes that force entire communities to flee, destroy homes and take lives. The goal for 2018 is to burn at least 20,000 acres and to clear another 20,000 by crews using chain saws, bulldozers and other machinery. (AP Photo/Brian Melley)
Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.
The post California will set more fires to try to stop wildfires appeared first on News Wire Now.
Sydney seaplane crash: Exhaust fumes affected pilot, report confirms
The pilot of a seaplane that crashed into an Australian river, killing all on board, had been left confused and disorientated by leaking exhaust fumes, investigators have confirmed.
The Canadian pilot and five members of a British family died in the crash north of Sydney in December 2017.
All were found to have higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide in their blood, a final report has found.
It recommended the mandatory fitting of gas detectors in all such planes.
British businessman Richard Cousins, 58, died alongside his 48-year-old fiancée, magazine editor Emma Bowden, her 11-year-old daughter Heather and his sons, Edward, 23, and William, 25, and pilot Gareth Morgan, 44. Mr Cousins was the chief executive of catering giant Compass.
The family had been on a sightseeing flight in the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane when it nose-dived into the Hawkesbury River at Jerusalem Bay, about 50km (30 miles) from the city centre.
The final report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) confirmed the findings of an interim report published in 2020.
It said pre-existing cracks in the exhaust collector ring were believed to have released exhaust gas into the engine bay. Holes left by missing bolts in a firewall then allowed the fumes to enter the cabin.
“As a result, the pilot would have almost certainly experienced effects such as confusion, visual disturbance and disorientation,” the report said.
“Consequently, it was likely that this significantly degraded the pilot’s ability to safely operate the aircraft.”
The ATSB recommended the Civil Aviation Safety Authority consider mandating the fitting of carbon monoxide detectors in piston-engine aircraft that carry passengers.
It previously issued safety advisory notices to owners and operators of such aircraft that they install detectors “with an active warning” to pilots”. Operators and maintainers of planes were also advised to carry out detailed inspections of exhaust systems and firewalls.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55862128
Australia unlikely to fully reopen border in 2021, says top official
Australia is unlikely to fully open its borders in 2021 even if most of its population gets vaccinated this year as planned, says a senior health official.
The comments dampen hopes raised by airlines that travel to and from the country could resume as early as July.
Department of Health Secretary Brendan Murphy made the prediction after being asked about the coronavirus’ escalation in other nations.
Dr Murphy spearheaded Australia’s early action to close its borders last March.
“I think that we’ll go most of this year with still substantial border restrictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday.
“Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don’t know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus,” he said, adding that he believed quarantine requirements for travellers would continue “for some time”.
Citizens, permanent residents and those with exemptions are allowed to enter Australia if they complete a 14-day hotel quarantine at their own expense.
Qantas – Australia’s national carrier – reopened bookings earlier this month, after saying it expected international travel to “begin to restart from July 2021.”
However, it added this depended on the Australian government’s deciding to reopen borders.
Australia’s tight restrictions
The country opened a travel bubble with neighbouring New Zealand late last year, but currently it only operates one-way with inbound flights to Australia.
Australia has also discussed the option of travel bubbles with other low-risk places such as Taiwan, Japan and Singapore.
A vaccination scheme is due to begin in Australia in late February. Local authorities have resisted calls to speed up the process, giving more time for regulatory approvals.
Australia has so far reported 909 deaths and about 22,000 cases, far fewer than many nations. It reported zero locally transmitted infections on Monday.
Experts have attributed much of Australia’s success to its swift border lockdown – which affected travellers from China as early as February – and a hotel quarantine system for people entering the country.
Local outbreaks have been caused by hotel quarantine breaches, including a second wave in Melbourne. The city’s residents endured a stringent four-month lockdown last year to successfully suppress the virus.
Other outbreaks – including one in Sydney which has infected about 200 people – prompted internal border closures between states, and other restrictions around Christmas time.
The state of Victoria said on Monday it would again allow entry to Sydney residents outside of designated “hotspots”, following a decline in cases.
While the measures have been praised, many have also criticised them for separating families across state borders and damaging businesses.
Dr Murphy said overall Australia’s virus response had been “pretty good” but he believed the nation could have introduced face masks earlier and improved its protections in aged care homes.
In recent days, Australia has granted entry to about 1,200 tennis players, staff and officials for the Australian Open. The contingent – which has recorded at least nine infections – is under quarantine.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55699581
Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection
The Australian city of Brisbane has begun a snap three-day lockdown after a cleaner in its hotel quarantine system became infected with coronavirus.
Health officials said the cleaner had the highly transmissible UK variant and they were afraid it could spread.
Brisbane has seen very few cases of the virus beyond quarantined travellers since Australia’s first wave last year.
It is the first known instance of this variant entering the Australian community outside of hotel quarantine.
The lockdown is for five populous council areas in Queensland’s state capital.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the measure on Friday morning local time, about 16 hours after the woman tested positive.
Ms Palaszczuk said the lockdown aimed to halt the virus as rapidly as possible, adding: “Doing three days now could avoid doing 30 days in the future.”
“I think everybody in Queensland… knows what we are seeing in the UK and other places around the world is high rates of infection from this particular strain,” she said.
“And we do not want to see that happening here in our great state.”
Australia has reported 28,500 coronavirus infections and 909 deaths since the pandemic began. By contrast, the US, which is the hardest-hit country, has recorded more than 21 million infections while nearly 362,000 people have died of the disease.The lockdown will begin at 18:00 on Friday (08:00 GMT) in the Brisbane city, Logan and the Ipswich, Moreton and Redlands local government areas.
Residents will only be allowed to leave home for certain reasons, such as buying essential items and seeking medical care.
For the first time, residents in those areas will also be required to wear masks outside of their homes.
Australia has faced sporadic outbreaks over the past year, with the most severe one in Melbourne triggering a lockdown for almost four months.
A pre-Christmas outbreak in Sydney caused fresh alarm, but aggressive testing and contact-tracing has kept infection numbers low. The city recorded four local cases on Friday.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has pledged to start mass vaccinations in February instead of March as was planned.
Lockdown interrupts ‘near normal’ life in Brisbane
Simon Atkinson, BBC News in Brisbane
At 8:00 today I popped to the local supermarket for some bread, milk – and because it’s summer here – a mango. I was pretty much the only customer.
When I went past the same shop a couple of hours later it was a different story – 50 people standing in the drizzle – queuing to get inside as others emerged with bulging shopping bags. “Heaps busier than Christmas,” a cheery trolley attendant told me. “It’s off the scale”.
Despite the “don’t panic” messages from authorities, pictures on social media show it’s a pattern being repeated across the city.
While shutdowns are common around the world, the tough and sudden stay-at-home order for Brisbane has caught people on the hop here after months of near normality.
But while such a rapid, hard lockdown off the back of just a single case of Covid-19 will seem crazy in some parts of the world, I’ve not come across too many people complaining.
And I don’t think that’s just because Aussies love to follow a rule. This is the first time the UK variant of the virus has been detected in the community in Australia.
And nobody here wants Brisbane to go through what Melbourne suffered last year. Even if it means going without mangoes.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-55582836
Australia2 years ago
Button and Diane Powellpark the school bus after three decades
Australia2 years ago
Button and Diane Powellpark the school bus after three decades
Tech10 months ago
Search engine startup asks users to be the customer, not the product
Europe4 months ago
Covid: Flights shut down as EU discusses UK virus threat
Health4 months ago
Spain ‘to register’ those who refuse to have Covid-19 vaccine
Europe3 months ago
Post-Brexit trade: Is red tape chaos just ‘teething trouble’ as the UK government argues?
Australia3 months ago
Covid: Brisbane to enter three-day lockdown over single infection
Arts3 years ago
How a chain-link mosque at the Vancouver Biennale became a community hub