The Washington Post printed two articles that underscored a disturbing trend in a weather warm-up (Winds, Heat Drive Fires In Oklahoma and 'Rapid Warming' Spreads Havoc in Canada's Forests).
This heat wave will have a devastating effect on fires all over North America, as states like Oklahoma are already finding out, and as Canada will find out when fire season begins with so many dead trees dotting their forests. It all underscores the need for both more air-tankers that can quickly reach fires in these areas and for close cooperation between Canada and the U.S. in fighting fires.
Since the 1960's, Canada has been cognizant of the need for a strong aerial response to fires - with their province-spanning forests, they have to be. There is much that each country can learn from the other about the techniques of fighting wildland fires. Perhaps it's time to start thinking beyond city, state, and national resources to fight fires. Perhaps it's time to consider a firefighting equivalent to NORAD - the North American Aerospace Defense Command. This organization was established during the Cold War to counter incursions into North American airspace by forces of the Soviet Union. The understanding that an attack on either the U.S. or Canada would be devastating to both prompted the two countries to work together. This scenario also applies to wildfires. Canada supplies millions of dollars of wood products to the U.S. (and the world, for that matter). If their forests are consumed by fire or rot away due to beetle infestations, where will everyone get their wood? At the same time, if U.S. air-tanker strength is allowed to slip below minimal levels (which it already is beginning to do), where will North America get the air-tankers needed to fight all the wildfires the current heat wave will spawn? A firefighting equivalent to NORAD could address both these issues.
But the resources needed in this battle have to be in place before the fires begin, since all the knowledge in the world won't do any good without the tools to do the job. As an old Chinese proverb sagely states, ‘Dig the well before you are thirsty’.
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