Introducing the Sierra Wildfire Wire – Your source for the untold Sierra fire season story.
Satellite image of smoke from the Rim and American Fires drifting over Northern California and Nevada, August 2013
The story of the Rim Fire isn’t over. In fact, it may repeat itself again over the coming months in the Sierra. Last week’s Hunters Fire in Mariposa County was the first fire of significance this season in the Sierra. Firefighters were able to contain it to an area slightly larger than Disneyland, but the speed with which the blaze kicked off serves as a burning reminder that we may be in for another season of Rim Fires.
The Rim Fire was the first of its kind in the Sierra Nevada. It burned hotter, farther and faster than fires in the Region typically do, and the $127 million suppression cost barely scratches the surface of the total loss experienced as a result of the largest fire in Sierra Nevada history. The size of the fire and the number of structures destroyed were well covered during the event, but additional impacts like the greenhouse gasses released, wildlife displaced, and the ongoing costs to communities all over California have yet to get much attention.
Last week the Sierra Nevada Conservancy launched a new web page focused on giving a voice to those previously untold stories. Here is just one example: Events like the Rim Fire have the potential to set back the effectiveness of air quality improvements made over the last few decades. The greenhouse gasses released during the Rim Fire were equal to the annual vehicle emissions from all of the cars registered in Orange County. Every time a wildfire burns in the Sierra, carbon that was being stored in the forest is released as greenhouse gas, resulting in the continued warming of our climate and in turn, the increased risk for wildfire in the Sierra.
Megafires, like the 2013 Rim Fire, are becoming more common in the western U.S. and the forests and foothills of the Sierra Nevada in particular are at risk. Decades of fire suppression, a changing climate, and a shortage of forest restoration efforts have led to extremely unhealthy conditions in many of our forests. Combine those overgrown conditions with a record drought and you have a recipe for a real state of emergency in the Sierra. Without a significant increase in forest health investments, events like the Rim Fire will continue throughout the Sierra.
Visit the new Rim Fire page, tour the interactive Rim Fire story map, and learn more about the previously unreleased chapter of the Rim Fire story. They may be a glimpse in to the future for California.
Follow the Sierra Wildfire Wire for more untold Sierra fire season stories
The Sierra Wildfire Wire has been created to give a voice to the untold stories of the Sierra Nevada fire season. The blog will focus on the broader impacts of fire, highlight new forest and fire research as it becomes available, and will demonstrate that suppression dollars are not the only values lost when our forests burn.
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