« Return to this article

for people who care about the West

Fire language

 

Too often the media sensationalizes wildfire. I think HCN should ensure its language does not add to sensationalism (“Scorched Earth,” HCN, 11/11/2017).

For instance, HCN refers to the Eagle Creek Fire as “consuming close to 50,000 acres.” Those acres still exist, so what was consumed? Some of the vegetation is still there, since wildfires rarely burn 100 percent of all vegetation on all acres. How about “burned parts of 50,000 acres”?

HCN also says that 2017 will be “remembered mainly for its destructiveness.” Since wildfire is part of many ecosystems in the West, since many of these ecosystems needed burning, and since these areas will recover with native vegetation that again is adapted to wildfires, maybe “destructiveness” is not the word to use. How about, “fire disturbance burned and ecological succession occurred”?

HCN refers to California wildfires as having “ravaged” Sonoma and Napa Counties. How much of each of these counties (percentage) burned? Perhaps just say that some large areas in these counties burned.

Finally, it is important to remember that not all ponderosa forests or other forests grow with the same density in every location. The U.S. Forest Service is notorious for thinning and logging using the same density over entire landscapes when a more diverse spatial, vertical, and horizontal pattern or mosaic would more closely mimic the forests of the past. The devil is in the details and HCN should report what those details are.

Brandt Mannchen
Humble, Texas