Sun editorial: Living with fire |

Sun editorial: Living with fire

The use of prescribed, pile, and broadcast burning has been long debated in the Truckee Tahoe area, and in forested areas across the country.

That debate has returned to the forefront recently, with a discussion of plans to burn between 10 and 60 acres in Waddle Ranch and#8212; really a drop in the ash-filled bucket of other burns done by the U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, and other land managers in the region.

Some affected by the burns expounded on the undeniable, insalubrious effects of breathing in smoke, and others worried about the chance of the controlled burn going out of control.

We all remember the miserable summer of 2008 and#8212; a month and a half of eye- nose- and throat-burning smoke day in and day out.

And last summer, the Yosemite National Park prescribed burn that got away, growing from 91-acres to more than 7,000.

But the inescapable fact is we all decided to live in a place where fire is part of the natural process, and is in fact necessary to keep our forests healthy.

People in Oklahoma donand#8217;t demand the government do away with tornados, and the residents of Florida havenand#8217;t called on the governor to deploy dehumidifiers to ease muggy days. Not that we know of, anyway.

Ultimately, what determines the long-term health of the forest and#8212; fire in this case and#8212; is healthy for humans, and necessary for us to co-exist. What happens when we donand#8217;t allow fire? We become the White River National Forest in Colorado, which after a century of fire suppression has 90 percent of its trees dying from a massive beetle infestation, and now resembles thousands of acres of kindling.

In summary, forest management is still an inexact science, sure, but we know that fire suppression is as destructive as any method we have ever used to manage our forests. Living near our forests requires a certain toughness and knowledge and#8212; and that means understanding the science of forest management, and tolerating these controlled burns that mean these forests will be healthy for generations to come.

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