Thursday, December 20. 2007
The fires are behind us and it is time for those little red patches of color to start sprouting along the edges of brush. I'm not talking about wildflowers, but brush abatement notices. Think it sounds like a good idea to clear your "brush"? Think again!
Do you know that there is a huge industry in the southwest built around brush clearing. There is a LOT of money in brush clearing. Think about how much brush there is in the southwestern US. It's kind of like a motherlode for people who are either greedy or just not smart enough to do anything else for a living. All they have to do is convince people that it is worthless, dangerous and evil and then ask for a blank check to clear it. That's where marketing comes in, because the brush isn't worthless, dangerous, or evil. So the brush clearing companies must make you believe that it is.
Do you know where those abatement notices come from? In some communities they actually do come from the fire department, but many communities are contracting with outside companies to do their inspections and issue their abatement orders. And who do you think those outside companies are? The brush clearing companies, that's who. One very big example is Fire Protection Services. They are the ones who contracted with the Escondido Fire Department and issued an abatement order on us. It turned out that they didn't know where the property lines were and the brush they were ordering cleared wasn't even on our property. Do they care? No. All they want is to force people into paying them for clearing somebody's brush. It doesn't even have to be yours.
And why cut the brush at all? They say it is for fire protection, but is it?
Brush does burn. But so will anything; native, non-native, mixed, weeds, landscaping, all will burn when dry. The chaparral, which is our brush here in southern California, has evolved to survive fires and recover from them, as has just about every ecosystem on the planet. Every ecosystem has its way of recovering after a fire, storm, or other catastrophe because every ecosystem experiences catastrophe from time to time. But that doesn't mean that chaparral needs fire to remain viable. Most of the chaparral plants are very resistant to catching on fire in the first place. As I pointed out in an earlier message, most chaparral species are very difficult to ignite even with a propane torch. They wither and char and unless you are persistent they just take a lot of energy to get started. If you can get the chaparral started and keep it going by blasting it with 60MPH winds, then it will produce a mighty wildfire - but so would any plant community under those circumstances. But think about this: the Witch Fire (the really big one in San Diego county this year) went about thirty miles from its origin - in about three days. That's ten miles a day or about four tenths of a mile per hour. In 40 to 75 MPH winds. If that was grass it would be moving almost as fast as the wind. You can get out of the way of a fire that is moving at four tenths of a mile per hour. You can evacuate a city in front of it. If all of that land had been weeds and grasses, the fire would have moved so fast that you couldn't get out of its way.
And that is what is going to happen if we keep clearing the "evil" brush. Or if we keep burning it. (Make no mistake: nature is not causing all of these fires, people are.) Grass and weeds will take the place of the chaparral. It will burn faster and much more often. And you will have to be able to run a heck of a lot faster to outrun it.
Now back to the brush clearing companies. What happens after they clear your brush? Something will grow back, that's what. Usually the chaparral plants will try to grow back, but they will be competing with a lot of weeds. And then what grows back will be a lot more flammable and will burn a lot faster. So then you'll have to clear again and again and again. That's what's called a cash cow if you are a brush clearing company. Once the cycle begins it is hard to break. And that is exactly what they want.
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