Wildfires

When the Government Makes Wildfires Worse

Federal policies are subsidizing people's choices to build homes in harm's way.

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As long as humans have had fire, they have tried to bend it to their will. Native Americans set small fires for centuries to clear underbrush from forests or open up pasturelands. Later, European settlers purposely burned perimeters around their settlements to protect them from unexpected wildfires. In the late 19th century, private timberland owners organized the first groups to fight wildfires, often structured as cooperatives. In the American West, members paid dues based on acreage owned, the proceeds of which were used to protect timber stands from flames. By the turn of the 20th century, more than a dozen states had programs devoted to fighting wildfires.

But the federal government soon became entrenched as both forest owner and wildfire fighter. In 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt led the charge to establish the U.S. Forest Service, a quintessential Progressive Era agency that oozed with faith in centralized management. During his two terms, Roosevelt used presidential power previously granted by Congress to drastically increase the size of federal forests, setting aside tens of millions of acres. A large and lethal fire season in 1910 brought political salience to the destructive potential of wildfires, and the government stepped in. An agency publication summed up its stance at the time: "Protecting the Nation's wildlands from fire was one of the new agency's greatest responsibilities since, in the words of the new Forest Service, only the Federal Government can 'give the help so urgently needed.'"

More than a century later, wildfires remain an urgent problem, and the feds' help simply isn't doing the job. Wildfires are getting bigger and more devastating, and muddled incentives are making a bad situation worse. The root of the problem is the idea that the federal government will show up virtually anywhere, anytime, to try to put out wildfires, regardless of the cost or effort required. Federal spending on wildfires has doubled in real terms over the past decade and grown fivefold since the late 1990s. Wildfire-related costs have consumed the majority of the Forest Service's budget for years, prompting the common quip that the agency should be renamed the "Fire Service." The implied federal guarantee of firefighting-no-matter-what signals to residents that it's perfectly fine to build and live in fire-prone areas. Yet nudging more people to live in high-risk places has increased the potential for catastrophe.

Fires Are Getting Worse

For most of the 20th century, the prevailing stance of the federal government was that fires should be extinguished as aggressively and quickly as possible. It pursued this goal with lookout towers and networks of fire detectors that even included rural mail carriers. In the 1930s, the approach was embodied by the "10 a.m. rule"—the idea that all wildfires should be under control by that time the day following detection. By 1939, the Forest Service had developed units of parachuting smokejumpers to rapidly respond when fires did ignite, and by 1944, it had rolled out Smokey Bear to educate everyday Americans about fire prevention. The idea that all wildfire should be snuffed out held sway through much of the second half of the 20th century and remains a popular notion today.

But decades of demonizing fire hasn't always helped. For various types of forests and landscapes, fire is a positive force, rejuvenating grasses and soils and keeping vegetation in check. Ponderosa pine trees need regular fire to thrive, for example. But while frequent, low-intensity fire brings ecological benefits—something well understood by countless timber owners in the Southeast who carry out controlled burns annually—a landscape that hasn't seen fire regularly is much more likely to suffer a large and intense one once it finally comes. Decades of suppression have left many Western forests choked with dense stands of small-diameter trees, underbrush, and other growth. This has contributed to high fire risk in many places today and partially accounts for why wildfires in the West are getting worse over time.

Before 2000, wildfires generally destroyed a few hundred structures in the United States each year. From 2000 to 2010, that rose to roughly 3,000 or 4,000—a big jump. Then, in 2018, nearly 25,000 structures burned. According to insurer Munich Re, economic damage from Western wildfires has surged for several years, now totaling $10–$20 billion annually. In California, seven of the 10 most destructive fires in state history have occurred in the past five years. In 2020, fires in the West killed 47 people, destroyed 18,000 structures, cost $3.6 billion in suppression efforts, and caused $16 billion in damage. The season was notable for how much damage extended beyond California to Oregon, Colorado, and Washington.

Unfortunately, many predict the bad trends will get worse. Climate change has contributed to making many forests and other Western landscapes drier for longer. (About 40 percent of the acreage burned by wildfires since 1984 has been in forests, while the majority has been shrublands or grasslands.) Western fire seasons have lengthened by an average of 60–80 days over the last three decades. In some places, the fire "season" is no longer a season at all but a year-round concern. Insect and disease infestations have also left dead trees on millions of acres of forests, compounding the risk created by a century of striving to zealously put out every fire.

But the most fundamental reason wildfires are becoming a bigger problem is that there are now more homes and people in harm's way. In recent decades, the area where houses meet forests and other wild vegetation has grown by one-third—and it's not because the forests are encroaching. The footprint of such areas, which researchers call the "wildland-urban interface," represents the fastest-growing type of land use in the contiguous United States. It now contains more than 43 million homes covering a total area larger than Texas.

The rapid growth in residential development not only puts more property and lives in fire-prone areas; it also increases the chances that new wildfires will ignite. People cause approximately eight in 10 wildfires, and human ignitions—whether from escaped campfires, burning debris, power lines, railroads, arson, or something else—threaten 30 times more homes in the wildland-urban interface than do fires caused by lightning. People are also responsible for helping to extend the wildfire season, which would be limited mainly to summer months if not for human ignitions.

Economists Dean Lueck of Indiana University and Jonathan Yoder of Washington State University have studied the evolution of wildland firefighting in the United States and note that the federal government has essentially had a "blank check" to suppress wildfires since the 1908 Forest Fires Emergency Act. They describe wildfire fighting today as a "highly structured, hierarchical, military-style" effort. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, spearheads responses from the federal level and coordinates with state and local agencies, moving specialized firefighting crews and equipment from one active fire to the next.

"This network comprises a bewildering array of laws, policies, and contracts that create a complicated mix of incentives and outcomes," Lueck and Yoder write. "Scholars and other commentators suggest that inefficiencies abound in the system, leading to over-investment in suppression and under-investment in pre-fire risk mitigation."

The most egregious thing about this blank check to suppress wildfires seems to be the fruitlessness of most suppression efforts. "There is well documented evidence," the economists write, "that fire suppression on large fires, especially when they are active, is often exceedingly ineffective." Consider that tanker drops of fire retardant that seem to be made for cable news often have little effect on large fires. Likewise, "backfires" set purposely by firefighters to try to contain a wildfire often fail to accomplish that objective but end up destroying valuable timber or other property. Still, these tactics continue to be funded year after year. "Even when suppression of large fires may be effective," Lueck and Yoder continue, "there are many cases in which the suppression costs far exceed the value of the protected resources."

The biggest wildfire-related legislative action of recent years was when Congress formalized in 2018 the blank check by providing federal agencies with disaster-account funding for fires, a model akin to the one used to fund flood and hurricane responses. The reform separated disaster funding for fires from main budgets, ultimately making it simpler and easier for agencies to devote money to firefighting. Dubbed the wildfire "fix," it did nothing to address the muddled incentives at the heart of the problem: Homeowners don't pay for the government's all-out efforts to put out fires and protect their lives and property; tens of millions of taxpayers do. The blank-check approach dulls people's incentive to prepare for fires—including when it comes to choosing where to build and live.

Government Creates Noise

Prices contain information. A sky-high insurance premium to live on the edge of a Western forest, for instance, might inform you that the wooded lot is extremely risky and you should build your house elsewhere. But interference often drowns out the price message.

When the federal government spends seemingly limitless amounts to put out wildfires, it signals that it's OK to move to riskier areas. As economists Patrick Baylis of the University of British Columbia and Judson Boomhower of the University of California San Diego point out, "the guarantee of federal government protection" from wildfires creates what's known as a moral hazard. "Homeowners do not internalize the expected costs of future fire protection when choosing where to live or how to design and maintain their homes," they write. "Perhaps just as importantly, local governments do not internalize these costs in zoning, land use, and building code decisions." The economists conclude that government spending to suppress fires has created implicit subsidies, borne by the rest of us, for people who live in high-risk places.

The hazard comes from the expectation that the feds will swoop in to help out once flames are raging. Baylis and Boomhower estimate that these implicit subsidies to property owners can be more than 20 percent of a home's value. In Montana and Idaho, they find that the subsidies exceed the total value of federal transfers to those states for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The expectation of federal assistance also likely undermines incentives for property owners to take preventative actions. "The promise of aggressive firefighting at no cost may reduce private incentives to choose fire proof building materials and clear brush around homes, actions that can decrease the threat to homes during a wildfire," they write. "Similarly, federally financed firefighting limits incentives for cities and states to create and enforce wildland building codes and defensible space regulations."

Essentially, all-out federal firefighting transfers wealth from taxpayers to homeowners in risky areas. It also blunts the incentives to organize and prepare at lower levels of government—or on an individual level.

The distortions created by federal wildfire policy are similar to those created by federal flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program offers plans to homeowners in floodplains, hurricane alleys, and other areas prone to inundations. But legislation requires that it aim for "affordability" for premium holders rather than set premiums based on underlying risk. "Any insurance pricing structure that is not based on the risks associated with a home in a given location creates distorted incentives," says Arizona State University economist Kerry Smith.

An implicit bailout when disaster hits makes it much easier to justify staying in a risky place. It's how one Mississippi home in the flood program, valued at $69,000, ended up flooding 34 times in 32 years, resulting in $663,000 worth of claims. It's little surprise that a program that makes rebuilding affordable, or even possible, in such a risky place would end up $20 billion in debt—after Congress recently wiped away $16 billion from the program's balance sheet. To top it all off, Smith's research suggests that in some areas it may not actually be low-income households who are benefiting from federally discounted insurance. Along the Gulf Coast, he and a coathor's research findings "imply that in many locations we are subsidizing higher income households and not the ones envisioned by equity concerns."

The blank check for wildfire fighting from the federal government clearly distorts incentives for homeowners. In California, policies regarding insurance markets have compounded the issues. After bad fire seasons resulting in record insurance payouts in recent years, insurers began to raise rates or even get out of the market altogether. In response, the state has sought to freeze policies and rates in what was already the most stringently regulated insurance market in the country. It is essentially encouraging people to remain or rebuild in places almost certain to burn again.

"People are used to paying, say, $1,600 a year of property cost for insurance," Michael Young, a vice president at Risk Management Solutions told Bloomberg Businessweek last year. "But if that goes up to $4,000 or $5,000 per year, that might not be something that they're interested in or capable of doing." Nobody roots for their insurance premium to triple, but nobody wants their house to burn down either. And a trebling of insurance rates in fire-prone areas may be just the price signal needed to keep new residents away.

California clearly doesn't see the situation that way. Its legislature passed a bill in 2018 that allows the state to prohibit insurance companies from canceling or refusing to renew policies for up to a year after a wildfire emergency. Regulators invoked the measure in 2019, when it covered 800,000 homes, and then renewed it in 2020, when it applied to 2.1 million homes—fully 18 percent of California's residential insurance market. The upshot is that the premiums for homes in risky areas will be subsidized by policyholders in other areas, at least until the insurers now shouldering huge losses can withdraw from the market. Choosing to risk having your home destroyed by a wildfire is one thing. But other policyholders or even taxpayers shouldn't be forced to subsidize you to take that risk.

By contrast, Colorado has taken a more prudent tack: allowing premiums to be adjusted to reflect different levels of fire risk. If a homeowner loses his policy because an insurer decides not to cover his area anymore, he can take risk-mitigating actions such as modifying the home or managing the trees around it and get a certification for having done so. In turn, various insurers agree to cover certified homes. Letting risk dictate the price of insurance gives property owners clear incentives to do the preventative work that reduces fire risk in the first place.

In California, rather than allowing the insurance market to continue to innovate, develop new wildfire models that are more precise, and price risk more accurately, regulators seem hellbent on making sure insurance prices will be based on anything except for underlying risk. But whether the disaster threat is flood or fire, the last thing policy makers should be doing is allowing people to disregard risk on other people's dime.

A Better Response

Even if California's insurance markets were allowed to function based on risk, the federal approach to suppressing wildfires—and implicitly subsidizing risky homebuilding—would remain.

Lueck and Yoder have pointed to two reforms that could help. One is to let more fires burn more widely, especially where few structures are at risk, and concentrate resources on protecting life and property. Until the 20th century, the approach to fighting wildfires was usually not to fight at all—a "let it burn" stance. Even today, fires covering many millions of acres are generally allowed to burn out in parts of Alaska every year.

A much more targeted approach to suppression makes economic sense. Not every acre is equally valuable, and not every acre burned is equally damaging. Here, the private sector is already helping. Wildfire Defense Systems is an example of a business that's concerned not so much with acreage burned—as federal efforts to fight fires often are—as with structures protected. Working for insurers, it preemptively evaluates policyholders' fire risk and advises actions to mitigate it. It also responds to active fires with equipment like water tankers or fire retardant to protect homes of covered policyholders. For nearly a decade, the company, which now serves 20 states, has been honing its system to judge a property's fire risk based on vegetation, topography, climate, history, and various other factors. Of course, these sorts of efforts depend on insurers being able to charge rates that at least keep them in business.

The second reform would be to set federal wildfire funding at a base level, and then let agencies "bank" unspent funds from one year to the next. If that were the case, total public spending devoted to fires might actually go down, and the demand for services from private pioneers like Wildfire Defense Systems might go up—meaning homeowners and insurers rather than far-flung taxpayers would foot more of the bill for wildfire risk. That would, in turn, give property owners more incentive to use fire-resistant designs and materials and to prepare their homes and environs for fires by doing things like spacing trees appropriately, enclosing eaves, and screening vents.

Beyond the home, various actions could be taken in forests to try to reverse the current state of overinvestment in suppression and underinvestment in prevention. The idea would be to reduce ignition risk and limit the intensity of wildfires when they do break out. Prescribed burns and selective harvesting are two ways to reduce property damage and suppression costs from wildfire. Both aim to reduce the amount of fuel available to a potential fire—either by preemptively burning it or removing it mechanically. But there's often a great deal of political and environmental opposition to such efforts, and when they do get off the ground, bureaucratic and legal obstacles often limit their scope.

Still, wildfires have become so salient that Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.) and Steve Daines (R–Mont.) have been willing to reach across the aisle to argue that much more needs to be done to proactively manage forests. The two legislators have co-sponsored a bill to speed up efforts to decrease fire risk with measures like prescribed burns and mechanical thinning. Such projects are often delayed or derailed by environmental reviews, which take an average of nearly three years to prepare for large-scale forest projects—meanwhile, wildfires do not wait for paperwork to get done. The senators' legislation aims to streamline such requirements for certain projects, as well as cut through some of the additional red tape that the Endangered Species Act can impose.

If bureaucratic obstacles can be flattened, then communities will be better positioned to invest in forest management themselves. One path to do that is through forest resilience bonds, a financial tool piloted by the Blue Forest Conservation nonprofit in 2018. The effort raised $4 million in private capital from insurance groups, private foundations, and other investors to restore 15,000 acres in Tahoe National Forest through activities like thinning trees, carrying out prescribed burns, and clearing brush. A local water utility and the state of California, both of which will ultimately benefit from reduced fire risk in the project area, will repay the bond. The Forest Service had projected the work to take a decade or more, but the upfront financing and novel partnership has accelerated the timeline to just four years. This model could even conceivably be applied to residential communities and insurers who seek to decrease fire risk.

Today, government wildfire policy often seems to promise the wrong kind of help, given how much of the spending aimed at putting out large fires is ineffective. Even if there's been little appetite to reform the blank check approach to fighting wildfires, various private actors are taking matters into their own hands, from companies providing insurers with sophisticated risk models, to financial innovators decreasing the likelihood of catastrophic fires breaking out in forests, to individual residents deciding to make their homes more firewise. Still, nudging people to dismiss risk by making it cheaper and easier for them to live in fire-prone areas helps no one—least of all those in harm's way.

NEXT: The CDC's Ever-Shifting COVID-19 Advice Shows the Agency Is Ill-Suited To Decide Which Risks Are Acceptable

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  1. Gia is a vengeful mistress.

    1. Many Italian girls are.

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  2. This federal agency isn’t seeing the forest from the trees.

  3. During the next wildfire, they should suspend Kamala from a helicopter and have her blow it out.

    1. During the next wildfire, they should suspend Kamala from a helicopter and have her blow it out.

      FTFY.

  4. We have all been informed by the honorable Rep. Greene of the real culprit behind the fires.

    – Jewish Space Lasers

    1. Gender reveal parties.

    2. I knew Mel Brooks was onto something with jews in space

      1. After she said that somebody designed a Jewish Space Laser Corps pin and t shirt with a space logo and the motto Mazel Tough. I want one.

    3. Are you just as skeptical of it being global warming and not terrible land practices and fire management? Because if not…

      1. Are you really saying “Jewish space lasers” and climate change are equally unlikely?

        Really?

    4. She deleted that tweet, but we must always remember it like it was the Alamo. Meanwhile, hundreds of Democrat blue checks keep their Russiagate and other Blueanon conspiracy tweets up indefinitely because their craziness has good intentions, or something, so it’s fine.

      1. The only way the Alamo should be remembered is as one of the classic military blunders of all time. So yeah it fits.

    5. Mizek has “scientific proof” that this is true.

  5. “Essentially, all-out federal firefighting transfers wealth from taxpayers to homeowners in risky areas.”

    Um, since almost all people who actually pay taxes own homes, aren’t they just transferring wealth amongst themselves?

    1. Many do not live in areas of appreciable fire risk.

    2. Crapifornia is a study in how NOT to manage natural resources. It also shows what happens when you essentially tell people there are no consequences for any actions. They have all but destroyed their state through entitled living and now their citizens are moving out bringing their stupidity with them. States like Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona are inundated with these ninnies who have no concept of mitigation. They want houses right in with fuel such as undergrowth and snags and then are shocked to learn that they, not the government, are responsible to clear a defensible space. I always agreed with the Trump wall…I just thought it should be around crapifornia.

      Many people are shocked to see how many large areas of the pine forests are brown. Beetle kill is rampant in forests because nature relies on fire to kill them off. But a policy of constantly putting everything out has led to copious amounts of unhealthy forest ready to burn. This self-sustaining process of more fuel due to allowing less fire which in turn propagates conflagrations has been pointed out by wildland fire experts for decades. Funny how it is just now being looked at.

    3. My house is high and dry 1000 feet from the nearest river and although the area is surrounded by forest preserves the local government does controlled burns every spring to limit potential wildfires. Odds of my property being flooded or burned in a wildfire are pretty close to zero. Don’t know why I’m paying to insure properties a thousand miles away.

    4. Well no. Everyone pays federal taxes but relatively few people are stupid enough to build in high burn zones or flood zones or buy beachfront property in hurricane zones. And fewer would if they actually had to pay the actual infrastructure cost to protect these homes and rebuild them when the inevitable happens and the protection isn’t adequate. But the federal gov sweeps in with subsidized flood insurance, federal fire fighters and federally supplied dikes and loans, simply because some asshole wants a view. Those federal dollars are on all of us, not just those who take the risk. Downtown Charleston SC, Galveston, and New Orleans are just three of many on the East Coast that wouldn’t exist if the people who lived there had to pay the costs of protecting themselves from known and extremely predictable disasters. People who actually build next to an earthquake fault or on hillsides covered with mud in CA also belong to this club.

      Even then, the assholes who build there don’t bother with taking the minimal precautions because they aren’t paying the bill. Stossel had a hit piece out on himself about 10 years ago about how he used to have his expensive property on the beach with federal insurance and didn’t even bother to board up windows because insurance would cover it and the premiums were minimal and guaranteed not to go up.

      Finally from Reason, a relatively decent article that spells out the real problems instead of using it as a diversion to something else or trying to find a way that this is a government gone wrong issue, not a partisan one.

  6. https://twitter.com/mdeperno/status/1393403111469899777?s=19

    1. In July 2020, counties across the state of Michigan received a FOIA from Michigan Election Reform Alliance asking for “scanned digital ballot images.”
    This was similar to a FOIA sent in 2016.

    2. Many county clerks engaged in a multi-layered discussion of how to respond, which included copying the Michigan Bureau of Elections on the discussion.

    3. The counties appear to have understood that disclosure was required under Opinion No. 7247 [pic]

    4. Many counties also acknowledged that the best way to avoid disclosure of ballot images was to turn off ballot imaging at the tabulator.

    5. From Justin Roebuck, Ottawa County Clerk . . . lol (so funny) [pic]
    6. From Ann Marie Main, Presque Isle County Clerk (“NO RECORDS”) [pic]
    7. From Caroline Wilson, Shiawassee County (same) [pic]

    8. Machines take an image of the ballot that is submitted and then tabulate the votes based on the ballot image. 52 USC 20701 requires that all election records must be maintained for 22 months. [Pic]

    9. But Michigan counties appear to have collectively decided (with SOS copied on the emails) to not retain ballot images produced by machines. The default settings store the images, which means they manually disabled the image store feature.
    10. I ask you, was a crime committed and does RICO apply?

    1. Insurrectionist! 2020 was the most fraud free election evah. Liz Cheney has spoken. How many times must Sullum explain this to you traitors?

    2. In case anybody missed it.
      https://electionwiz.com/2021/05/04/census-reveals-weird-anomaly-shows-millions-less-voted-in-2020-election-than-official-tally/?fbclid=IwAR2xYrMNTiwveBvx2eJC7IvKJaxV9mUWY79mj5d_cFVHzTssjP3MBrxVlyQ
      According to the Census, the recorded number of people voting in 2020 was tallied at 154,628,000. On the other hand, official results place the number of actual ballots cast slightly north of 158 million. That’s a discrepancy of nearly four million votes.

      1. The media would do better if they reported this and what’s happening in Maricopa. Boxes were found where pink slips didn’t match number of ballots in the box. Database deleted days before audit began. 4 lost lawsuits by democrats against the audit. Doj threatening federal action for the audit.

        Then in Pennsylvania they destroyed ballot envelopes against the law so they couldn’t count absentee ballots against valid envelopes.

        Yet cleanest election ever.

        1. If/when it turns out that Trump really did win the election. Nothing may happen, but at least we’ll be able to bring it up every Jan 6. That might take some of the steam out of their attempt to turn it into another 9/11

          1. Some records of the JFK assassination are still sealed. Remember that Congressional slush fund used for paying off mistresses and hookers? Of course everyone wanted that exposed…. and then it kinda just got forgotten. The Fed has never been audited and nobody is allowed to see the US gold reserves. There is also now as of Obama, a lifetime do not disclose for all Secret Service agents of what they may have seen or heard that may be personally embarrassing to the President or First Lady.

            A lot of conspiracy theories come out of thin air, but many more are simply there because information is purposely hidden. And then there’s just the fact that there ARE bad players and there ARE actual conspiracies. We have laws on the books and conspiracies are routinely prosecuted and proven.

            What are the chances you’ll ever learn anything meaningful about the 2020 presidential election?

      2. Since it’s self reported, the usual suspects will hand wave it off. I’m personally leery of anything that relies on self reporting. Having said that, it’s one more anomaly that just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    3. Uncle RICO

  7. The firefighters eventually “contain” and “control” every forest fire The newscasters tell us when they finally beat the fire. A very strong myth.

  8. Do you know anybody who has more details about this topic. If yes, then reply…

  9. Crapifornia is a study in how NOT to manage natural resources. It also shows what happens when you essentially tell people there are no consequences for any actions. They have all but destroyed their state through entitled living and now their citizens are moving out bringing their stupidity with them. States like Idaho, Colorado, and Arizona are inundated with these ninnies who have no concept of mitigation. They want houses right in with fuel such as undergrowth and snags and then are shocked to learn that they, not the government, are responsible to clear a defensible space. I always agreed with the Trump wall…I just thought it should be around crapifornia.

    Many people are shocked to see how many large areas of the pine forests are brown. Beetle kill is rampant in forests because nature relies on fire to kill them off. But a policy of constantly putting everything out has led to copious amounts of unhealthy forest ready to burn. This self-sustaining process of more fuel due to allowing less fire which in turn propagates conflagrations has been pointed out by wildland fire experts for decades. Funny how it is just now being looked at.

  10. The global warming doomsday cult wants to blame the wildflowers on global warming (like they blame random hurricanes on global warming), even though the warming they warn us about is mostly in the future.

    The fires are due to an extended drought, which the western USA has had intermittently going back forever, and colossal mismanagement of the forests for the past few decades, and development encroaching into fire funnel canyons.

  11. Yeah looks like they fucked up the Klamath watershed this year too, that will help out.

  12. The Federal Government is well known for making a mess of most that it does. Subsidizing insurance in disaster prone areas and making disaster mitigation illegal for the land owning citizens have become an industry in this country. California has allowed the population to increase far beyond the ability of the land to provide the water needed to support the population, and in addition the geology is unstable. Flood and storm prone areas are like wise so. The government has no business being in the insurance or any other business. The Federal Government has very limited responsibilities and should stick to its Constitutional Charter. The rest of it should go to the various states.

    1. California isn’t the only place. Vegas never should have been. New Orleans should have been bulldozed [but someone said “racism” so everyone jumped], Galveston should have been left leveled twice. Downtown Charleston should be some rocky beaches now. Denver is way over built. Atlanta has restructured the entire surrounding land because they nearly ran out of drinking water. But now area farms aren’t getting that water.

      Yet apparently we just don’t have enough people living here and have to let more in.

      1. Good points. My thoughts on the matter.

        Vegas only exists because the mafia in concert with the Kennedys needed someplace to stash their money. They killed JFK when he didn’t keep his end of the deal.

        New Orleans is still around because middle aged women need someplace to go for girl party trips and we don’t want them here.

        Georgia is running out of water…wait…what?

        Galveston exists but only in your mind.

        I have been to Charleston. Rocky beaches would be an improvement.

        What we really need are fewer Canadian tourists.

  13. I’m surprised Reason hasn’t come out with a pro Hamas article yet.
    The AP is up in arms because Israel took out a building (after giving an hour warning) in which their offices are located. Good excuse for Reason to get their leftist narrative on.

    1. MOSTLY PEACEFUL ROCKET ATTACKS.

    2. Do you have one or zero black friends?

      1. Look what the stupid dragged in.

  14. Wildfires in California are due to DECADES of shitty, unscientific, politically motivated forest management. The feds probably do not help, but are they really the main culprit?

    1. They aren’t the only ones responsible for fire conditions [much of that is certainly States], but given the risks to private property have a cost that only the federal can cover, yes… they are in many cases the ONLY culprit in allowing people to afford the risk. Whatever you’re willing to pay for is what you’ll get more of.

      You’re not going to build your million dollar house on the top of a mountain or in a flood zone if no insurance company will cover you.

  15. Good emphasis on the actual distortions rather than just the politics and bs.

    1. Absolutely. We need more articles like this, that go in depth on an issue, talking to experts and discussing actual policy implications (and proposed solutions!), rather than just the usual “Team Red/Team Blue did something stupid/awful, now it’s time to laugh at/hate on them” clickbait nonsense that is common on the Internet at large.

  16. Very important during the next forest fire, they must suspend Kamala from a helicopter and launch it.

  17. As a Chico area residence I supported the class action lawsuit being prepared against the Sierra Club for their lobbying against forest clearing for fire prevention. You should to…

  18. Houses have always been in the forest since the begining of mankind so that reason is not applicable. what is lacking is maintenance through logging and other methods that are now blocked by government environazies

  19. Three points:
    1. The author is economically literate! I shouldn’t be this happy, but I am.
    2. “The Tragedy of the Commons”.
    3. I wonder if the climate change cult bother to take into account all the carbon human beings store up in plant matter by fighting wildfires so aggressively? I’m pretty sure the answer is obvious, so then I wonder if it more than offsets the other things humans do to release carbon?

  20. Can I provide a simple example from Australia of how markets can correct stupid government decisions. A local government (equivalent to a US county government) rezoned a floodplain for housing development. The insurance companies announced that they would insure any houses for risks such as fire but not for floods. The response of the homebuilders was to build houses that mitigated the risks such as building on stilts etc. The commercial incentives of markets fixed the mistake of the government.

  21. Here in Communist USSR “other peoples labor” will be used for the ‘poor’ idiots that like to gamble. Because emotions…

  22. Private fire fighting and prevention companies are the answer to protecting property. They clear brush around property assets, they do control burns, they educate the public. The problem is, was and always will be is that public unions won’t allow private companies to do the job the government is failing at. And, the politicians, well at least mostly the Democrat politicians, are pocket puppets of the public unions.

    The other problem is that government has legislated a monopoly on fire. The excuse is that the public union firefighters have the training and experience which is total Bull shit. Private fire prevention businesses have done a far better job of preventing property damage than any government agency could hope to do.

    An example is that the firefighters’ unions are trying to outlaw private companies and volunteer firefighters from taking control on the falsehood that allowing the unqualified to do the work is dangerous. Mainly because unions say that the private sector is not as trained as the the public union. Which is total bull shit based on the stats. The public unions have succeeded in outlawing volunteer firefighters in many states and communities. and, they are trying to put all fire safety/contorl under the governments jurisdiction. in other words, fires will be getting worse with no end in sight.

    1. ^This; Summarized as Gov-Gun *force* =/= progress.

  23. Everyone knows that fires are worse now because we drive cars. Private gas-guzzling cars.

    1. Everyone = Sheeple… Baaaaah…
      I’m sure all those fire management services guzzling gas and diesel just make all those fires worse… Yep; that’s gotta be it…

      Gimme a freak-en break.

  24. I don’t debate specific irrational govt. policies and laws. Worldwide, the only govt. paradigm is the initiation of force, threats, and indirect force, i.e., fraud. Until that paradigm is replaced with a non-violent politics based on reason, rights, choice, all governments will fail, will create chaos, not order. Don’t misunderstand; I am not saying govt. needs new ends (goals). I am saying govt. needs to use a new means: non-violence, because the means determines the end. And violent means never fails to result in chaos, destruction.

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