When Is It Considered Negligence?

 

On July 4, lightning started a small blaze in the forest near Markleeville, CA. Markleeville is the county seat for Alpine County, thankfully still the least populated county in California. At the time of the initial fire, the US Forest Service decided to let the fire burn itself out when it had consumed about an acre more than a week ago. Unfortunately, given the dry conditions, the fire is now raging some two weeks after the initial lightning strike and, at last count, has consumed some 21,000 acres with 0% containment. At least three structures have burned down to their foundations, more are likely to burn if containment cannot be achieved. The small towns of Woodfords and Markleeville are in the crosshairs. The prevailing winds blow from west to east through the Carson Canyon which because of its high cliffs and ridges on the canyon’s north and south side act more or less can act as a wind tunnel, so there is a possibility that if the flames reach up to the Woodfords area, the winds will push the fire further eastward, possibly down into the flatter grasslands and pastures just south of Gardnerville and Minden, NV.

The story caught my attention today and my brothers and I have a particular interest in it. Our parents owned a small home just north of Markleeville on Crystal Springs Road perched and a slope near the Carson River that runs parallel to a stretch of Highway 88 which connects to Highway 89 a route to Lake Tahoe west of Woodfords and the route down into the aforementioned Gardnerville/Minden area in Nevada, cattle grazing country that stretches out in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada range, the same mountains that ring Lake Tahoe.

My brother, Don, related the circumstances around an earlier fire in the same general area shortly after our parents retired to live in the Woodfords house in the late 1980s in responding to my email about this latest fire:

Exactly what happened when the folks lived there. Someone was using a backhoe without a spark arrester, starts small fire. Local volunteers show up, start working the fire. Forest Service shows up, says “We got this, go home.” Next thing, it’s out of control.

The fire burned up to the back door of the next downriver home, skipped off downstream. I seem to remember over thirty homes destroyed.

Mom and Dad and I spent a night in Gardnerville. I was allowed to spend the next night at the house, folks came up the following day. And that had a lot to do with the decision to leave the mountains and move to Tucson.

There is a thunderstorm in the forecast for the area, so perhaps that will help to dampen a lot of the fire if a prolonged downpour ensues. Of course, a thunderstorm could also mean a few more lightning strikes…that perhaps the US Forest Service may also dismiss.

More information on the Tamarack fire can be found here. And here.

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  1. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    There’s the Federal Tort Claims Act.

    • #1
  2. DonG (2+2=5. Say it!) Coolidge
    DonG (2+2=5. Say it!)
    @DonG

    It is not just California.  I am reading about the recent floods in Germany.  It seems the government failed to lower impounded water behind dams and order evacuations despite the big rain forecasted.  There are 1200+ dead/missing.  In nearby Belgium and The Netherlands flood-prone areas were evacuated and no lives were lost. 

    • #2
  3. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Easy answer to the question is: when someone other than the government screws up and causes damage.  Since “we are from the government and here to help you.”

    • #3
  4. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    The problem is that bureaucrats in DC, and elected officials in Congress that have never seen the land they regulate make decisions on land management. They have never walked on, or lived on that land. 

    • #4
  5. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    The problem is that bureaucrats in DC, and elected officials in Congress that have never seen the land they regulate make decisions on land management. They have never walked on, or lived on that land.

    Well…unless they’ve spiked trees along with their fellow eco-terrorists…or perhaps were at least familiar enough with the land in question and chummy with those who had conducted eco-terrorist acts.

    Tree spiking involves hammering a metal rod, nail or other material into a tree trunk, either inserting it at the base of the trunk where a logger might be expected to cut into the tree, or higher up where it would affect the sawmill later processing the wood. It is used to prevent logging by risking damage to saws, in the forest or at the mill, if the tree is cut, as well as possible injury or death to the worker.

    • #5
  6. navyjag Coolidge
    navyjag
    @navyjag

    Brian Watt (View Comment):

    Doug Watt (View Comment):

    The problem is that bureaucrats in DC, and elected officials in Congress that have never seen the land they regulate make decisions on land management. They have never walked on, or lived on that land.

    Well…unless they’ve spiked trees along with their fellow eco-terrorists…or perhaps were at least familiar enough with the land in question and chummy with those who had conducted eco-terrorist acts.

    Tree spiking involves hammering a metal rod, nail or other material into a tree trunk, either inserting it at the base of the trunk where a logger might be expected to cut into the tree, or higher up where it would affect the sawmill later processing the wood. It is used to prevent logging by risking damage to saws, in the forest or at the mill, if the tree is cut, as well as possible injury or death to the worker.

    Talk about triggering memories. This is the Earth First book on how to terrorize the lumber industry in Northern California in the early 1990’s. Led to the Judi Bari bombing incident in Oakland. She was one of the ring leaders of the Earth Firsters.  Another one now up for confirmation into Biden’s government crowd.  Some real weirdos. And none of them served any significant time. 

    • #6
  7. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    From FoxNews this morning:

    Stone-Manning’s nomination process revealed her involvement in a tree-spiking plot orchestrated by Earth First!, an ecoterrorist organization. 

    She testified in 1993, in exchange for immunity, that she retyped and sent an anonymous letter to the U.S. Forest Service on behalf of John P. Blount, her former roommate and friend. The letter told the Forest Service that 500 pounds of “spikes measuring 8 to 10 inches in length” had been jammed into the trees of an Idaho forest.

    Tree-spiking is a dangerous and violent ecoterrorism tactic where metal rods are inserted into trees to prevent them from being cut down. The metal rods damage saws that, in turn, have severely injured people, such as a mill worker whose jaw was split in two from an exploding saw.

    Biden’s BLM director nominee has called for population control to protect the environment in her graduate thesis and shared her husband’s report from 2018 that said people’s houses caught in forest fires should be left to “burn,” calling it a “Clarion call.”

    • #7
  8. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    Well I’ll go off thread for a moment. There seems to be a new government program, I’ll call it GEPFFLR (Government Employment For Former Leftist Radicals).

    From tree spikers, and then some who fly under the radar. How did a former CIA Director who voted for the CPUSA presidential candidate pass a background check. A candidate for the ATF director who claimed two helicopters in the Waco debacle were shot down, it never happened. The new program to investigate FFL gun sellers, but if memory serves me it was the ATF that coerced a FFL gun seller in Tucson to sell around 3,000 guns to Mexican cartels.

    • #8
  9. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    From the CBS affiliate in San Francisco:

    MARKLEEVILLE (CBS SF) — A determined band of firefighters battled the advancing flames of the raging Tamarack Fire early Sunday, keeping the blaze from entering the heart of the evacuated Sierra community of Markleeville.

    As of Sunday evening, the growth of the fire had slowed somewhat. A 7 p.m. update from authorities put the fire at 23,078 acres in size.

    • #9
  10. Cosmik Phred Member
    Cosmik Phred
    @CosmikPhred

    Another example of “the tragedy of the commons.”

    I’m on the other side of the hill from Markleeville on Hwy 4 in Arnold.  Logging and tree clearing is pretty active in this corridor from various parties: PG&E, Sierra Pacific, Arnold Rim Trail maintenance, etc. I’m happy to see it, but we’re always on alert.

    On an absurdist note, during the height of COVID the Stanislaus National Forest was closed. How does one do that apart from campgrounds?  You put black plastic over the national forest sign along the highway, silly. Done.

    • #10
  11. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    The ABC affiliate (in Nevada?) relates this morning from Alpine County’s Facebook page:

    6 structures destroyed in Tamarack Fire | Evacuations, maps, updates

    The fire has burned 25,000 acres, according to county officials.

    • #11
  12. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Link to the article below here:

    • #12
  13. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    10 structures have burned down. Latest update on the Tamarack fire around Markleeville here.

    5:14 p.m.

    The Alpine and El Dorado County sheriff’s offices said they are providing escorts for evacuated residents to secure pets, papers and other emergency items. The escorts will take place from 4-8 p.m. Monday and future dates for additional escorts will be determined based on the current fire activity.

    Anyone interested in the assistance is advised to go to Mad Dog Cafe at 290 Old Pony Express Way in Markleeville.

    3:32 p.m.

    The Alpine County Sheriff’s Officer ordered more mandatory evacuations for the Mesa Vista area along Highway 88 near the California-Nevada border Monday afternoon. All residents and visitors are being asked to leave and avoid the area.

    As of the afternoon, the Tamarack Fire has burned more than 23,000 acres with zero containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service. More evacuation information can be found below.

    • #13
  14. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    As of this morning, the Tamarack Fire around Markleeville has grown to 39,000+ acres and is expanding northward toward Crystal Springs Road in Woodfords and eastward down the mountain slopes toward Highway 395.

    https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7674/

    • #14
  15. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Cosmik Phred (View Comment):

    Another example of “the tragedy of the commons.”

    I’m on the other side of the hill from Markleeville on Hwy 4 in Arnold. Logging and tree clearing is pretty active in this corridor from various parties: PG&E, Sierra Pacific, Arnold Rim Trail maintenance, etc. I’m happy to see it, but we’re always on alert.

    On an absurdist note, during the height of COVID the Stanislaus National Forest was closed. How does one do that apart from campgrounds? You put black plastic over the national forest sign along the highway, silly. Done.

    The situation is worse that what you’re picturing.  True, Sierra Pacific is a big landholder, but tiny vs. federal (USFS) land.  Commercial timberland is overwhelmingly more gently sloped, better – roaded, and well-managed – less underbrush, better – spaced trees, etc. (Dunning Site Class I).  Forest Service land, on the other hand, is not so good (Dunning Site Class II – IV.  Mostly Class III.).  Much steeper, not as many roads, and many of the roads have been closed (water bars, grown over by brush, etc. etc.).  Very little logging is left, therefore land management has largely ceased.  It was mostly financed by income from logging.  Even if the limits on logging were lifted tomorrow, the infrastructure and job skills necessary to support a renewed timber industry no longer exists in California.

    PG&E manages the land under their powerlines.  To the extent that they’re allowed to manage their land, that’s good.  But they, too, have had their hands tied by lawsuits, etc.  You bet, a powerline right-of-way is a welcome break in fuel type, but they aren’t enough.

    I know nothing of the Arnold Rim Trail.

    So.  The tree clearing you see is limited mostly to removing “hazard trees” from things like roads, etc.  But if you walk into the woods, and get out of sight of those roads, you will find a different world.  And that’s the world that firefighters have to work in.

    BTW you see pictures of mostly CalFire engines (red) and firefighters squirting water.  You see those pictures because few reporters have the nerve to walk off the roads.  Water is a luxury that is a rare treat for the majority of the type of firefighting that is called for now.  The stuff that really counts is done by caterpillar tractors if possible, and the rest by hand, just like in the old days – Mcleods, Pulaski’s shovels, some chain saws, and strong backs.  Even when you do see pictures, it’s on, like 10% slopes.  To us, that was like flat ground.  Under the best conditions it’s filthy, stinky, dangerous work.  That’s why the reporters and their cameras don’t go there.

    @cosmikphred, you have every reason to remain on alert.

    • #15
  16. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    UPDATE: As of Thursday morning, July 23rd, the Tamarack Fire has now consumed 58,417 acres and a few days ago moved into Nevada.

    Questions are bound to be asked – hopefully in a court of law – about why the National Forest Service didn’t put out the fire when they had a chance to do so less than a week after it was reported; as well as, how adequately the NFS actually monitored the fire on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis after July 4th. 

    • #16
  17. Cosmik Phred Member
    Cosmik Phred
    @CosmikPhred

    Quietpi (View Comment):

    Cosmik Phred (View Comment):

    Another example of “the tragedy of the commons.”

    I’m on the other side of the hill from Markleeville on Hwy 4 in Arnold. Logging and tree clearing is pretty active in this corridor from various parties: PG&E, Sierra Pacific, Arnold Rim Trail maintenance, etc. I’m happy to see it, but we’re always on alert.

    On an absurdist note, during the height of COVID the Stanislaus National Forest was closed. How does one do that apart from campgrounds? You put black plastic over the national forest sign along the highway, silly. Done.

    The situation is worse that what you’re picturing. True, Sierra Pacific is a big landholder, but tiny vs. federal (USFS) land. Commercial timberland is overwhelmingly more gently sloped, better – roaded, and well-managed – less underbrush, better – spaced trees, etc. (Dunning Site Class I). Forest Service land, on the other hand, is not so good (Dunning Site Class II – IV. Mostly Class III.). Much steeper, not as many roads, and many of the roads have been closed (water bars, grown over by brush, etc. etc.). Very little logging is left, therefore land management has largely ceased. It was mostly financed by income from logging. Even if the limits on logging were lifted tomorrow, the infrastructure and job skills necessary to support a renewed timber industry no longer exists in California.

    PG&E manages the land under their powerlines. To the extent that they’re allowed to manage their land, that’s good. But they, too, have had their hands tied by lawsuits, etc. You bet, a powerline right-of-way is a welcome break in fuel type, but they aren’t enough.

    I know nothing of the Arnold Rim Trail.

    So. The tree clearing you see is limited mostly to removing “hazard trees” from things like roads, etc. But if you walk into the woods, and get out of sight of those roads, you will find a different world. And that’s the world that firefighters have to work in.

    BTW you see pictures of mostly CalFire engines (red) and firefighters squirting water. You see those pictures because few reporters have the nerve to walk off the roads. Water is a luxury that is a rare treat for the majority of the type of firefighting that is called for now. The stuff that really counts is done by caterpillar tractors if possible, and the rest by hand, just like in the old days – Mcleods, Pulaski’s shovels, some chain saws, and strong backs. Even when you do see pictures, it’s on, like 10% slopes. To us, that was like flat ground. Under the best conditions it’s filthy, stinky, dangerous work. That’s why the reporters and their cameras don’t go there.

    @ cosmikphred, you have every reason to remain on alert.

     

    Agreed, the two saw mills within an hour of where I live are long gone and CA continues to crap on industries and infrastructure that allowed it to exist in the first place.

    Your point on fire photo ops is well taken.  I find the media’s reporting on wildfires endlessly irritating and unhelpful. It’s similar to reporting on earthquakes. Fallen cans in the grocery store are their CalFire engine.  Adds nothing to understanding what’s going on.  I always seem to have to work hard to find a map.  That is the MOST important tool.  Where is it?  How big is it? Where is it going?  A lone chimney tugs at the heart strings, but tells me nothing.

    • #17
  18. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    UPDATE: The Tamarack Fire has as of this morning, Saturday July 24th,  burned 65,152 acres or 101 square miles and is four percent contained.

    • #18
  19. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    • #19
  20. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Meanwhile in the mountains east of Red Bluff, California the Dixie Fire rages and has consumed some 181,289 acres with 19% containment.

    https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2021/07/24/butte-county-dixie-fire-live-updates/

    • #20