California officials rethinking fire management strategy amid constant threat

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Controlled burns are just one way crews can fight fire with fire.

The flames reduce the fuel flames feed upon.

Fresno County Supervisor Nathan Magsig says the practice needs to expand.

"We need to be increasing the area that we're doing these prescribed burns, in some cases, tenfold just to get where we need to be to manage the forest in a healthy way," he said.

During the spring, crews clear brush to reduce the risk of fire.

Magsig says Fresno County has removed thousands of high-hazard trees near roadways to help maintain escape routes during fires.

But he believes many more needed to be cut down.

"Right now, there are between four and 500 trees in some parts of Fresno County and we need to get back to a sustainable forest where we have maybe 60, 80 trees per acre," he said.

About 57% of forest land in the state falls under federal jurisdiction.

Retired CAL FIRE Chief Ken Pimlott says the challenge is to get state, local and federal agencies on the same page.

For years, he has talked about the need to thin our forests and establish more fire breaks.

"Well, I certainly hoped to have been proven wrong, that we would not be in fire environment that we're in now but unfortunately, the stage was set," he said. "We've known these conditions we were in. It was just a matter of time."

He says now is the time to galvanize efforts to improve fire safety.

Both Pimlott and Magsig believe the timber industry could help reduce future fire danger but a public-private partnership would be needed to move forward.

"The timber industry plays a critical role in this equation," Pimlott said. "Right now, there isn't enough infrastructure - sawmills, biomass facilities, wood workers, loggers."

Pimlott adds the ongoing drought has only intensified the conditions which create dry fuel that helps wildfires quickly spread.
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