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The Wildfire(s) This Time

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COMMENT: With an “El Nino” win­ter, pro­duc­ing lush under­growth, fol­lowed by a “La Nina” fall, man­i­fest­ing high tem­per­a­tures, the drought-stressed Cal­i­for­nia land­scape has been poised for, and is expe­ri­enc­ing, a very bad fire sea­son. Exac­er­bat­ing this has been the fact that some of the fires have been delib­er­ate­ly set. 

Among the firs set was the Clay­ton fire, alleged­ly set by one Damin Pahilk. Hav­ing spent time in prison for a vari­ety of offens­es, Pashilk dis­played Nazi/SS iconog­ra­phy.

We note in pass­ing that Smokey the Bear was a civ­il defense icon cre­at­ed by the U.S. gov­ern­ment dur­ing World War II to alert the pub­lic to the Axis tac­tic of start­ing wild­fires in order to bleed Amer­i­can wartime resources.

Some thoughts:

  • Might Pashilk have come under the influ­ence of a Nazi/Aryan prison gang while serv­ing his sen­tences?
  • Might we be see­ing a man­i­fes­ta­tion of “lead­er­less resis­tance”? 
  • Cer­tain­ly, burn­ing down sig­nif­i­cant parts of Amer­i­ca’s wilder­ness will drain valu­able resources. Is this a goal of “lead­er­less resis­tance wild­fires,” to coin a term?

“Vic­tims of Clay­ton Fire Stare Down Sus­pect­ed Arson­ist in Court” by Evan Ser­noff­sky and Kevin Fagan; The San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle; 8/17/2016.

. . . . A 40-year-old ex-con spent the last two fire sea­sons roam­ing this drought-baked coun­ty, set­ting small blazes that nev­er man­aged to spread much before he final­ly lit a mon­ster — last weekend’s infer­no that ripped through Low­er Lake and turned scores of homes into ash, pros­e­cu­tors said Wednes­day.

Damin Pashilk of Clear­lake was arraigned at the coun­ty cour­t­house here Wednes­day after­noon on felony arson charges accus­ing him of light­ing 12 fires and try­ing to set a 13th, plus four more counts relat­ed to metham­phet­a­mine vio­la­tions and dri­ving on a sus­pend­ed license. The fires all occurred between July 2, 2015, and Sat­ur­day, when he alleged­ly sparked the dev­as­tat­ing Clay­ton Fire. . . .

. . . . Pashilk lived in a trail­er in Clear­lake, a big­ger town north of his­toric Low­er Lake, and though one neigh­bor said “some­times he gets a lit­tle intim­i­dat­ing,” most said they were shocked he could be sus­pect­ed of set­ting a fire that dec­i­mat­ed much of a com­mu­ni­ty. A cart at Pashilk’s home was paint­ed with Nazi SS light­ning bolts, and his pro­fan­i­ty-laced Face­book page sport­ed the same sym­bol. . . .

“A Quick His­to­ry of Smokey the Bear” by Steve Nix; forestry.about.com.

Smokey Bear came to us by neces­si­ty. At the begin­ning of World War II, Amer­i­cans feared that an ene­my attack or sab­o­tage could destroy our for­est resources at a time when wood prod­ucts were great­ly need­ed. Time was ripe for a Smokey Bear icon.

In the spring of 1942 a Japan­ese sub­ma­rine fired shells onto an oil field in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia near Los Padres Nation­al For­est. Gov­ern­ment offi­cials were relieved that the shelling did not start a for­est fire but were deter­mined to pro­vide pro­tec­tion.

The USDA For­est Ser­vice orga­nized the Coop­er­a­tive For­est Fire Pre­ven­tion (CFFP) Pro­gram in 1942. It encour­aged cit­i­zens nation­wide to make a per­son­al effort to pre­vent for­est fires. It was a mobi­lized civil­ian effort in sup­port of the war effort to pro­tect valu­able trees. Tim­ber was a pri­ma­ry com­mod­i­ty for bat­tle­ships, gun­stocks, and pack­ing crates for mil­i­tary trans­port. Smokey Bear was cre­at­ed as the sym­bol for wild­fire pre­ven­tion but with a war-time incen­tive. . . .

. . . . On August 2, 1944, the For­est Ser­vice and the War Adver­tis­ing Coun­cil intro­duced the smokey bear char­ac­ter as their cam­paign sym­bol. . . .


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