1. #1
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    Post California Fire Danger

    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) - This spring's late rains are keeping
    California's hills green, but where hikers see a lush landscape
    firefighters see potential calamity.
    Fire season, which usually runs from May to October, hasn't yet
    started. But come summer, what now look like rain-fed fields will
    dry out into thick tangles of brush which could burn hotter and
    longer than usual.
    "Rain has a temporary benefit, and we appreciate it," said
    Karen Terrill, a spokeswoman for the California Department of
    Forestry and Fire Protection. "But, yes, what is germinating now
    is going to grow and become straw."
    Terrill said she's noticed that grass near her home in the hills
    outside Sacramento is longer and thicker than normal. Fire
    officials from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay area voiced
    similar concerns.
    "All we have to have is two straight weeks of some good, dry
    Santa Ana wind conditions (and) we can have conditions set
    significantly for a pretty huge event," Los Angeles County fire
    Inspector Roland Sprewell said. "That could change a moderate fire
    season into a very dangerous fire season in a matter of days."
    A major concern is that light, highly combustible grasses might
    provide sparks which float into oak and heavy chaparral areas.
    "The longer the grass is when it burns, the more embers it will
    throw off," said Tim August, Fire Captain with the East Bay
    Regional Park Fire District Department. "The chance that embers
    carried by the wind will land on other areas of vegetation is
    In the Oakland hills where a 1991 fire destroyed more than 3,000
    houses and apartments, residents on Saturday opened a
    fire-resistant, drought-tolerant garden.
    "You can't do much about the geography or the weather," said
    Susan Piper, who helped organize the community committee that built
    the park, which includes fire prevention displays. "But one thing
    you can do is reduce the fuels."
    Fire officials in the region are letting cattle and sheep graze
    the hills later into the summer and hiring crews to prune trees and
    remove grass from strategic areas, said Brian Cordeiro, fire
    captain in charge of fuel management in East Bay parks.
    He added that it's also important residents take responsibility
    for clearing dry vegetation on their properties.
    "We recommend people clear at least 30 feet around their homes,
    and 100 feet if they live on a hillside," said August. "And it's
    important to keep the gutters clean. Pine needles can accumulate,
    and that goes up pretty quick."
    Associated Press Writer Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed
    to this story.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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    25 NW of the GW


    LAKE ARROWHEAD, Calif. (AP) - With fire season just weeks away,
    hundreds of thousands of lifeless trees are choking the San
    Bernardino National Forest.
    Groves throughout the forest have been devastated by tiny
    beetles that are preying on conifers weakened by a prolonged dry
    spell in the mountains of Southern California, including stands
    that for a century have grown, unchecked by flame or ax, to soaring
    Were they to burn, the 100,000 people who live within the forest
    boundaries would be at risk.
    "You bet it's a concern," said Don Townsend, chief executive
    officer of the Inland Empire Council of the Boy Scouts of America,
    which owns two of the 30 summer camps inside the forest. "It makes
    you ill just to drive up there. You see brown pines sticking up
    like sore thumbs."
    Already, trees across 175,000 acres, more than 20 percent of the
    national forest, show signs of infestation by various native
    species of bark beetle. Entire groves that a year ago were a
    verdant green have turned brown.
    "It seemed like it took place overnight," said Cedar Grove
    resident Joan Starr, 49, who is unsure how she will pay the
    thousands of dollars it will cost to remove the 10 dead trees that
    stud her property.
    Local forest officials estimate they will need to cut millions
    of trees on federal land alone over the next decade, at a cost that
    could reach $300 million.
    The situation is the same over much of the parched West, where
    21 million acres of forest on private and public land are at risk
    over the next 15 years to the ravages of drought, insects and fire,
    according to federal estimates.
    Nowhere is the risk to life and property higher than in the San
    Bernardino National Forest, home to several sizable towns,
    including Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear City. The forest is just 70
    miles east of downtown Los Angeles and within a short drive of some
    20 million Californians.
    It stretches across several mountain ranges and varies in
    elevation from 1,500 feet to the 11,502-foot summit of San Gorgonio
    Mountain, Southern California's highest peak.
    Years of drought and overgrowth have stressed the forest's
    trees, leaving them incapable of producing sufficient quantities of
    pitch needed to repel the beetles. As a result, the numbers of
    beetles have exploded. It can take several thousand of them weeks
    to kill a 100-year-old tree.
    A fire would likely spread quickly through the tinder-dry
    forest, spread by embers blown from the crowns of trees that push
    100 feet or more into the sky.
    "That's fuel. That's all it is. You drop a match in there, it's
    gone," said U.S. Forest Service ranger Gabriel Garcia on a recent
    tour of the forest, as he looked over a tight mountain canyon
    packed with the spindly skeletons of dead bigcone Douglas firs.
    For most residents, the only way out is along narrow mountain
    roads threaded through forests of towering, dead trees. Forest
    Service supervisors said their biggest concern is evacuation in
    case of a major wildfire.
    A fire also could burn hot enough to sterilize the soil,
    delaying the recovery of species that normally would spring back
    after more frequent, but less intense, fires.
    "It would be a human and ecological disaster," Forest Service
    spokesman Matt Mathes said.
    Before that happens, the Forest Service and private land owners
    are struggling to cut down and remove dead trees and brush within
    the 820,000-acre forest.
    In Southern California, state officials have declared Riverside,
    San Bernardino and San Diego counties disaster areas. They now seek
    equivalent federal status for the counties, home to the Cleveland
    and San Bernardino national forests.
    On a recent afternoon in Lake Arrowhead, the sound of chain saws
    filled the air as trucks hauling logs, stumps and wood chips
    rumbled past.
    For years, strict homeowner association rules restricted the
    cutting of trees in the neighborhoods that surround the
    once-brimming lake. Now, the lake has shrunken and the rush is on
    to remove the dead trees.
    The work gets expensive, because many trees stand close to
    houses and utility lines and must be cut in segments.
    Dozens of crews have descended on the area, charging residents
    $300 to $3,000 a tree, said Anthony Sellers, 26, of Yucaipa, who
    has spent the last four months cutting dead trees in the area.
    "It's unreal what's going on," Sellers said.
    On Forest Service land, those trees adjacent to private
    property, along evacuation routes and near communications towers
    are being cut or thinned first.
    What to do with all the wood remains undecided. Enough lumber to
    build the equivalent of 10 homes is trucked out of the forest each
    day, taken 160 miles north to a mill run by Sierra Forest Products,
    said Larry Duysen, the Terra Bella company's logging
    superintendent. The lumber, cut into 2-by-12 inch boards used for
    shoring, is the first in any appreciable quantity to be harvested
    from Southern California in decades.
    Hundreds of piles of woody debris are being torched in the
    forest. Some wood chips may be shipped to a power plant in the
    Southern California desert, where they would be burned to produce
    But most of what's cut is good only as firewood, which residents
    can't give away. Rare is the house in the Lake Arrowhead area
    without a thick pile of stumps at the foot of the driveway.
    For now, there is little opposition to thinning trees within the
    San Bernardino forest. Both the Forest Service and timber industry
    are pressing to continue thinning the forest in future years, even
    when rains are abundant and the beetle threat abates.
    Tom Bonnicksen, a professor of forest sciences at Texas A&M
    University, said the forest would have to be periodically thinned
    over the next 70 years to guarantee its health. The Bush
    administration proposed last year the Healthy Forests initiative,
    which promotes the thinning of woodlands to cut the risk of fire.
    "If they plant it and leave it, it will be a disaster," said
    Bonnicksen, who recently toured the San Bernardino National Forest
    as an adviser to The Forest Foundation, a California nonprofit
    group supported by the timber industry.
    Environmentalists fear the present bark beetle crisis could be
    used as a justification for stepping up logging on public land.
    "The question that you have to ask is, whenever there is some
    natural occurrence, whether it's fires or bugs, whether that gets
    raised by the Bush administration as a rationalization for just
    going out and logging a lot more trees," Sierra Club spokesman
    Warren Alford said.
    On the Net:

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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