California Governor Jerry Brown, who is America’s leading socialist and fear monger when it comes to the pending end of the world because of what he says is man made climate change, should spend a little bit of time reading. It is as they say fundamental. Brown has been issuing dire warnings to California residents that wild fires like they are currently dealing with are the result of Global Warming and will be the norm going forward. He forgets to tell those that call the Golden State home that wildfires are nothing new and the ones in California this year are very small by comparison to fires that have ravaged North America for millennia.

I guess some education is in order for you and just in case Brown, the 60’s hippie decides to acquaint himself with some facts about wildfires and why man may in fact be responsible but not for the reasons he cites. I should also point out that the hysteria surrounding this years fires in California has been blown completely out of proportion for what is really happening.

Let me preface all of this by telling you that wildfires are dangerous, frightening, and can be emotionally overwhelming. Yes, lives are lost and homes are destroyed when forest fires and wildfires get out of control. Let me also explain that these kind of fires have been going on in this country since before it was a country. And I know just how devastating they can be, because I have been caught in forest fires that make the fires in California look quite small by comparison. The compelling issue with the California fires of 2017 is that they are in heavily populated areas so they get a disproportionate amount of coverage compared with their relative size.

Let’s begin with some of the major fires that are burning in California right now: The Thomas Fire in Ventura County is 132,000 and if you know that a square mile is 640 acres then you know that this fire covers more than 200 square miles. That sounds impressive but wait. The Creek Fire has burned across about 15,500 near Los Angeles and has gotten a tremendous amount of news coverage.

The Rye Fire is scorching some 7,000 acres near Santa Clarita and the Lilac Fire near San Diego is burning on more than 4,100 acres. It is a bad fire season as they say. People are losing everything they have to these merciless infernos. The sobbing faces on TV are compelling and the narrative that it’s all the fault of Global Warming makes you stop and thing, ‘well we’d better do something about it.’

Before you get too concerned however lets take a look historically at big fires in the United States. I was on the front lines of one the biggest fire seasons ever recorded; in 1988 giant fires erupted in Yellowstone National Park. The fires burned across the park for weeks. I was a young radio reporter for the ABC news affiliate in Bozeman, Montana at the time. I went back and forth the 90 miles or so to the park almost daily through most of the late summer and into the fall.

I flew in giant helicopters with the Montana National Guard into hot fire zones dropping off one group of smoke jumpers and picking up others. I watched the fires “crowning” at 80 to 100 feet, as the helicopters would lift out just ahead of the flames in intense firestorm generated winds. Crowning occurs when there is no fire on the forest floor and instead only burns through the tops of the trees, whipped by frenzied winds that are created because the mammoth fires suck wind to fuel their expanse. On Black Saturday, I was trapped inside the park. Old Faithful Lodge was under full assault by the raging flames. Firefighters fought back, dug fire lines, doused the majestic buildings and waged a war with nature. I kept getting stopped by road closures as the thick heavy ash that creates a near grease-like substance when you try to clean your windshield coated my car and nearly everything else. After several hours and some harrowing moments I found my way out. All summer long Bozeman smelled like you were standing two feet downwind of a wet campfire and the ash came down like a snowstorm. Old Faithful Lodge survived somehow and so did I. I learned a lot about wildfires that summer, what causes them and how bad government policy was the real kindling for many of the fires we are still fighting today.

I will get back to bad policy in a minute but I want you to understand that wildfires that would dwarf this years California fire season have been going on for far longer than Global Warming became the cause celeb. Lets start in Michigan’s Thumb in 1881. The Thumb fire burned across more than 1 million acres in a single day. That’s right, 1 million acres on just one day, September 6, 1881.

Ten years earlier a wildfire called the Great Michigan Fire burned from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron and consumed 2.5 Million acres. The gale force winds that turned much of Chicago to Ash when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lamp in 1871 whipped through Michigan at the same time. During the same fiery day The Peshtigo Fire burned from Wisconsin into Michigan’s U.P. leaving hundreds of people dead.

The mid 19th century fires were caused in large part because of the intense lumbering of the region over several decades. The logging left behind intense amounts of leftover pieces and parts of trees, better known as slash. This is what firefighters refer to as fuel and there was a hell of a lot of fuel. The fuel build-up was coupled with drought like conditions, strong winds and an ignition point. No one is quite sure where the Michigan fire started and whether or not it was ignited by natural sources like lightning or by human error.

The Great Chicago Fire and that fire bug of a cow gets most of the historical attention but it is important to note that in October of 1871 millions of acres burned in the Midwest and at least 1,500 people were killed. In the Wisconsin firestorm more than 800 people died in the town of Peshtigo alone. To think that somehow the fires in California this year are extraordinary is simply to believe something that isn’t true. Think about this, The Great Chicago Fire, The Peshtigo Fire and The Great Michigan Fire burned 3.7 Million acres, killed 1,500 people and they all occurred on the same day!

How could that be you ask?

The United States Government used to battle every wildfire that erupted in the Western States. This went on for decades until about 1980 when the government decided they should implement a let it burn policy. Simply put, the government decided that unless a forest fire or wildfire was caused by human activity they would just get out of the way and let nature takes its course. Well by now you understand the theory of fuel for wildfires. The simple explanation is that the U.S. Government allowed dead falls; brush and scrub to build up to unnatural levels for decades and then said let it burn. Well, burn it did. It burned in Yellowstone in 1988 and it’s burning in California this year. But unless you are willing to believe that Global Warming was ravishing the world in 1825, 1871, 1881 and every year since then you know there is something else going on.

Let me make it simple for you; the fires are burning today, just like they did in Michigan and Montana because man was trying to play God with the forest and the forest fought back.

Which reminds me, Governor Brown doesn’t seem to understand a lot of the ecology of fire. You see, fire is good for the environment. I know crazy right? The lodgepole pine for example (named for the very reason you think) is a tall straight species of pines that do not reproduce unless there is a forest fire! It has to be over 120 degrees for the pinecones to open and release a new generation of seeds. The only way that happens is wildfires. When fire moves through wild lands it also burns away old grass and underbrush by the following spring wildflowers and a new crop of native grassed flourish. As a direct result the deer and elk flock to the fresh pasture of sweet offerings.

I hope by now you understand fire is an extremely important component in the cycle of life. I realize that may not get a lot of votes from the left or fit in with this month’s doom and gloom predictions from the Sierra Club and Earth First but it is the truth. And now you know that by comparison this years fires in California, although tragic for those caught in it’s path, they are not unusual or even particularly interesting in the big picture. So far California’s fires have covered about 250,000 acres.

As a footnote to the wildfires I lived through in 1988 I should point out a few weeks later in late January 1989, actual air temperatures in Bozeman dropped to near 40 degrees below zero. In Michigan the third coldest winter on record happened in 2013-14. These stunning cold temperatures followed the firestorms. California had record setting snowfalls just last winter. My point being that all things are relative and most weather patterns in my experience and my extensive reading seem to be cyclical. So before I really begin to panic I’ll need to see a lot more proof than a few fires in densely populated parts of Southern California that are broadcast to the world 24 hours a day in stunning HD.

If you remain unconvinced about the recorded history of giant fires in North America here are some other monster fires to read about:

The Miramichi/Maine Fire of 1825 burned more than 3 Million acres.

Wildfires in South Carolina in 1898 burned 3 Million acres.

The Great Idaho Fire of 1910 also burned 3 Million acres.