A discussion of wildfires in the Western US.

The western United States has endured a large number of very damaging wildfires this summer.  Arizona, Colorado, and California have suffered greatly, but other western states including Alaska have as well.  Nineteen firefighters died in one particularly disastrous fire in Arizona.  Hundreds of homes and millions of acres have burned.

The National Interagency Fire Center website reports that as of September 10, there have been over 34,000 wildfires which burned nearly four million acres.  Here is a link: Year to date wildfires in the US as of September 10, 2013

There have always been wildfires in the west, particularly in drought years like this one, but there is an ominious factor: an ABC news report cites an Al Qaeda newspaper’s call for starting fires throughout the US, as part of “economic warfare.”  Al Qaeda threatening to start wildfires in US

It’s always difficult to determine how a wildfire starts.  Lightning causes some, but stupid or malicious humans cause most of them.  How serious is the Al Qaeda threat?  It’s probably very serious.  There are many Muslims in the United States who may be sympathetic to the terrorist message.  As I write this today, two men have been shooting people at random in the Washington Navy Yard.  It’s not known if they are terrorists as  yet, but my guess is, they are.

Perhaps we need a more organized approach to fighting wildfires.  Perhaps we should bring it under the umbrella of homeland security.  We need 24/7 satellite or aerial surveillance of western lands to detect fires early.  We need teams of firefighters on call, and we need more air tankers to help put out the fires.  The ideal air tanker is a flying boat, which lands on a lake, scoops up water into its tanks, then flies to the fire and dumps it.  These are expensive, and there aren’t a lot of them around.

The other thing surveillance can do is help catch the culprits.  This is very difficult, because they can use delay action devices.  But checking cars in and out of areas with cameras can help.

Finally, arson connected with a wildfire should be defined as terrorism, and I think it should be subject to the death penalty.  We need to get tougher on terrorists.