“We have 100 years of legacy in this state and we have a lot of federal land over which the state does not have a lot of power. So it has to be a coupled effort between the feds and the state to address the accumulated brush and understory growth,” said Stephanie Pincetl, director of the California Center for Sustainable Communities at UCLA.
Pincetl contrasted the American approach with a more hands-off attitude on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where regular fires go unchecked. There are more frequent conflagrations in Mexico, but those fires are less destructive.
“When there are naturally ignited fires, it burns at low intensities in 10 to 15 to 20 year cycles, so they’re not devastated,” Pincetl said. “Fire is an implicit part of the ecosystem, and if you suppress it, you fail to get regeneration.”