Ag Elsewhere: California

Photo and story by Lainey Smith

When I sat down with the editor of NTFR, we discussed several topics to start a new year of exploration into California Agriculture.Originally, this article would cover how farmers and ranchers were recovering from a highly active and highly destructive fire season. As I opened up my laptop to begin setting up interviews, words scrolled across my screen—The Camp Fire.

Within days, The Camp Fire uncontrollablyburned 153,336 acres and claimed 85 lives. With no prior warning, fourteenthousand homes burned and those who inhabited them lost everything. The firefront moved so fast, rescue crews abandonedevacuation procedures—there wasn’t time.

At hospitals and convalescent homes,patients were thrown into vehicles headed toward safety. As the flames subsided,this provided a new challenge—finding the survivors. Evacuations were so chaotic, and the flames burned so hot, hundreds were reported missing.

Cadaver dogs were brought in to find those who perished, while family members went on local news stations in search of missing loved ones. At the time of article submission 249 people were still missing.

The Camp Fire is being named the most destructive fire in California history. What strikes most odd is the fact that this fire occurred months past what is considered California’s “fire season.”  While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, The Camp Fire is being classified as a vegetation fire, intensified by the abundance of dead, overgrown forest.

While the Camp Fire may have caught everyone off guard, it was hardly a surprise given the circumstances.When it comes to public land use, lawmakers fight varying interest groups such as loggers and ranchers, while trying to appease lobbyists and environmental organizations.

California is made up of 640 million acres of public land and is home to nine National parks. While fighting over how to best use and maintain the land, the land is not maintained at all. Heavy restrictions are passed through legislature out of fear of extreme lobbyists. The result—a forestry service unable to make any decisions for the health of the land without going through endless bureaucratic red tape.

To read more pick up a copy of the January 2019 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.