California Flamethrowers and National Wildfires

California Flamethrowers and National Wildfires

California Assemblyman, Miguel Santiago, is apoplectic at the news that Elon Musk’s Boring Company pre-sold 20,000 of its “flamethrowers” in just four days last week.

Santiago’s 53rd Assembly District includes part of downtown Los Angeles and East Los Angeles, high crime areas where flamethrowers would be an unwelcome addition to an arsenal of weapons already on LA streets.

Billionaire Musk clearly has too much time on his hands, despite his leadership roles in both SpaceX and Tesla, companies he founded and continues to bankroll.

Musk’s “flamethrower,” which sells for $500 and looks a lot like an assault rifle [probably intentionally] has already attracted the unwanted attention of U.S. Customs officials, prompting Musk to Twitter that a “rebranding” effort may be needed. No kidding.

Although Musk’s invention lacks the firepower of military-grade flamethrowers capable of torching buildings [or people] at 100 feet, its propane-generated flame does reach out 10 feet – the height of an NBA basketball hoop.

“We don’t allow people to walk in off the street and purchase military-grade tanks or armor-piercing ammunition,” Mr. Santiago declared. “I cannot begin to imagine the problems a flamethrower would cause firefighters and police officers.”

We can’t either, though it would not surprise us to learn that Los Angeles street gangs already have military-grade flamethrowers and armor-piercing ammunition in their arsenals.

With all due respect to Assemblyman Santiago’s concerns, we think his anger is misplaced. The most lethal flamethrowers in the not-so-golden state are its National Forests, which hold several hundred million dead trees that are fueling wildfires of unprecedented size and ferocity.

The 2017 wildfire season was the worst in California history. Property losses topped $12 billion. And that doesn’t count the two-plus billion dollars the U.S. Forest Service spent battling 2017’s western wildfires. Never mind the losses in air and water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, timber, outdoor recreation and public health.

Speaking of public health, no one has attempted to refute our claim that smoke from wildfires is a carcinogen, no less deadly that nicotine. We are in the hunt for a pulmonary specialist willing to check our facts for accuracy. When we find one, we’ll report.

Meantime, insurers are making good on their promise to cancel the policies of homeowners who don’t protect their property from wildfire. But how do we shelter our homes and families from wildfires that throw red-hot embers a mile ahead of their murderous paths?

Do we remove shade trees so that flames rising from distant federal forests and rangelands can’t touch our homes, or do we confront this crisis at its source? Why is this question even necessary?

Many say climate change is to blame these godawful wildfires. And, indeed, the climate is changing, just as it has at irregular intervals for millions of years. How else to explain the presence of redwood debris unearthed from the Arctic tundra. Or lakebed pollen samples that show that much of western Montana was once sparsely-forested rangeland. Or other earthly rhythms that trump the impacts of human progress?

Forget about Elon Musk’s flamethrower, a tasteless publicity stunt at best. Focus instead on forcing Congress to fix the regulatory mess that is at the heart of the West’s wildfire crisis, a direct result of decades of vote-pandering, mismanagement and incompetence. We have at hand the science and know-how necessary to tamp down this wildfire crisis. Let’s get to it before it gets us.

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Evergreen Magazine.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.