Former Cobbler Provides Insight into California Fires

California’s wildfire situation is a pressing concern; former Cobbler and Black Hat crew member Jacob Knutson can offer insight to those forming a perspective.

By Anthony Centineo

A never-ending rampage of harsh forest fires is a dilemma that California has had to face for years. This past month has been no exception, as California has experienced its most deadly and destructive fire yet in its history.

Originally starting as a camp fire in Butte County, California on November 8th, 2018, it skewed into a horrific forest fire scorching 153, 336 acres of land, destroying 13, 972 homes, and killing 85 people. Over 1000 people are still reported missing and the number continues to climb. Such an event has brought California’s fire problem back to the attention of many people and new initiatives to prevent them are being suggested.

“Imagine being inside a smoky ashtray, it’s the new normal for California citizens,” said Jacob Knutson, senior at Augustana University and editor of the Augustana Mirror. Knutson himself has helped fight fires with the Rapid City Black Hats within the Black Hills as well as areas in Wyoming and Colorado. With his experience, Knutson was able to share valuable information and his own insight on the California wildfires. “I couldn’t imagine being a firefighter in California,” said Knutson. “Seeing so much destruction and death and not being able to do anything about it would devastate me. The worst I’d seen was a half-finished cabin being destroyed.”

jacob at cache creek
Jacob Knutson (4th from right) with the Black Hat crew at the Cache Creek Fire

Knutson said that the reason for such brutal fires in California were climate change and human interference. He explains that natural fires will occur to clear out the forests to prevent the overcrowding of trees. Over time however, humans have prevented such natural fires from occurring, thus causing even more rampant fires to spark. “It’s basically a tinder box ready to go off,” said Knutson.  Rising temperatures due to climate change only fuels the fires more.

Although destructive forest fires in California have been prevalent, it’s an issue that doesn’t seem to be taken seriously enough.  “Government needs to invest in our first responders and forest management,” said Knutson. President Trump himself claims that it’s poor forest management that keeps the fires coming. In turn, however, he threatens to cut off federal funds to forest management, which would be pure folly.

Thankfully, as of the 25th of November, the deadly camp fire was contained. But unless new changes are made, such a fire is still possible to strike again.

Photo:  Hotshots by US Depterment of Agriculture on Flickr