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Smoke gets in your eyes… and your lungs too

October 27, 2007

BBC News reports on warnings over fire pollution from the Kahl-ee-forn-ee-a wildfires.  And sure enough, though burning pine and eucalyptus trees smell nice in a campfire, you don’t want to be engulfed in the smoke from millions of tons of fuel.

It’s not a local problem, either.  Chris over at Creek Running North tells about his experience with a previous fire four years ago:

I got to that Mojave altitude, at Mid-Hills Campground, and woke in the middle of the night smelling smoke. I panicked: the campground was in a thick forest of juniper and pine. Had I left a stray ember in my firepit? I burst out of the tent. There was no light to be seen, no fire, no moon, no stars. The air was thick. The wind had shifted, and all the smoke from 2003’s fires in San Diego and San Bernardino streamed toward the interior. My campsite was 120 miles from the nearest fire, the Devore Fire in Cajon Pass. A hundred twenty miles away and the smoke stung my nostrils.

In his illustrated post he goes on to describe what happens if you try to exert yourself in a smokey environment.

Predictably the god-botherers are saying the fire is the fault of gay people, but I have an alternative explanation even though it sounds a little bit radical.  People built their houses in an area that would partly burn every 50-100 years, and suppressed every little fire for over half a century so there was a fantastic concentration of fuel.  The let the brush grow right up against their houses.  And when the right wind conditions and lack of moisture combined…

Naah. Nobody’s going to believe that…

  1. October 27, 2007 at 23:08 | #1

    but I have an alternative explanation even though it sounds a little bit radical.

    The problem is you are going for the complicated/scientific explanation and not the direct, simple, politically charged explanation… the scapegoat arsonists. Catch them and all problems solved…  :down:

  2. October 28, 2007 at 09:01 | #2

    In the great US flood of 1993, one of the volunteer workers on the levies along the Mississippi thought it would be cool to watch the water chew through the levy.  He cut a channel with his shovel and then had to run for his life as the water carved a massive breach – visible from space – flooding hundreds of square miles and destroying millions of dollars of property.  He went to prison for “causing a disaster”. 

    Yes, the word “cause” bears deeper analysis.  The underlying reasons for the Mississippi’s flood-stage-state were complex and one could question the wisdom of how the river and drainage basin are managed by ACOE.  Some other levies failed on their own without the help of a moron with a shovel.  But that specific flood was directly traceable to an individual who did a monstrously stupid thing.  The court apparently felt that sufficiently advanced stupidity was indistinguishable from malice.

  3. October 29, 2007 at 04:49 | #3

    Wind carry many things many miles.
    In 1990 a alarm and auto shut down systems were activated at a nuclear faccility where my company was doing some construction work.
    There was no leak from the plant but carbon 14 (??) from a coal burning station 320 km (200 miles)away was responsible. The “dirty” source that caused the activation came from the air intake vents.

  4. October 29, 2007 at 06:09 | #4

    There was no leak from the plant but carbon 14 (??) from a coal burning station 320 km (200 miles)away was responsible. The “dirty” source that caused the activation came from the air intake vents.

    LOL – that’s something for anti-nuclear activists to think about when they worry about radiation and cancer.  Burning coal produced enough radiation to set off alarms 320 km distant!  To say nothing of mercury and acid rain pollution from burning coal. By comparison nuclear is a well-behaved neighbor.

  5. October 29, 2007 at 06:25 | #5

    To say nothing of mercury and acid rain pollution from burning coal. By comparison nuclear is a well-behaved neighbor.

    Yup, jumping on the anti-nuclear bandwagon in the 90s was the dumbest thing environmentalists did and probably did more to hurt the global warming cause than putting bumper stickers on SUVs helps.

  6. October 29, 2007 at 07:36 | #6

    How ‘bout that… I actually forgot about global warming, while thinking about radiation, acid rain, and mercury.  Then there’s mountaintop and open-pit mining, sludge runoff pits…  man, there’s just no end to coal’s bad habits.

  7. October 29, 2007 at 23:38 | #7

    Got you going eh?

  8. October 30, 2007 at 05:14 | #8

    I’ve been told that smoke from large fires in California has drifted as far as Colorado in the past—although not to the extent that you could smell it as smoke.

  9. October 30, 2007 at 07:31 | #9

    Got you going eh?

    Yep ;-)   I remember when coal was the answer to the world’s energy needs going out hundreds of years.  Then somebody got to counting the cost.

    Nuke plants aren’t without problems, of course, but it isn’t quite the laundry-list as for coal.  We just need to find a spot nobody will want to go for 10,000 years or so for the leftovers.

  10. November 11, 2007 at 22:28 | #10

    Hell, we’ll probably find a use for the leftovers sooner than that.  I agree, one of the major ways that the environmentalists and the government discredited themselves on the “global warming” issue was to get all hysterical about Nuclear power.  Of course, they are also the people who complain about the high cost of gas, and then prevent oil companies from building refineries.

    People never tire of micromanaging eachother’s lives, do they?

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