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The purpose of this letter is to stimulate thought about fighting forest fires. It is not meant to be a criticism of current procedures or the work of those who fight fires. However, a question that occurred to me recently is: Would it be advantageous to deploy sufficient resources to control a fire as soon as possible?
From updates, it appears that fires are rated according to intensity, and resources are deployed appropriate to the intensity. When a fire is manageable, that approach is cost effective and works well, but when weather and other conditions are adverse and control of the fire is lost, it is costly and may result in considerable loss of property and life. Moreover, after a fire reaches a certain size, which was apparently the case with the West Fork fire as it approached South Fork last weekend, there is little that can be done to control it, and what happens is determined by the weather.
An alternative approach might be to deploy sufficient resources early to control the fire. Admittedly, that is not always possible, but when the fire is detected soon enough, use of airborne resources that are normally used to fight monstrous, out-of-control fires might be sufficient to bring it under control. It seems that deploying those resources earlier, rather than later, might be a good idea.
How best to fight a forest fire is a complex problem, which presumably has been analyzed by responsible officials. It involves technology, human resources and financial resources. I don’t pretend to be an expert in any of those areas, and I would welcome an informed discussion of factors involved in fighting forest fires.