As wildfires rip through the Pacific states, environmentalists and liberal politicians are blaming man-caused global warming. But the particular severity of this year’s fires may be traced to a different cause: arson.
There’s evidence of criminal human activity causing forest fires. Over a dozen people have been charged recently with setting western wildfires. Domingo Lopez Jr. may be the champion firebug. He started a brush fire along I-205 in Oregon using a Molotov Cocktail, was arrested, booked and later released. Then Lopez proceeded to start six more small fires in the next twelve hours before being apprehended again. Another alleged arsonist, BLM activist Jeffrey Acord, livestreamed the fire on Facebook as police arrived, then claimed to be calling the incident in.
Wildfires occur naturally on the West Coast and have been part of the ecosystem for millennia. An average 6.8 million acres burned annually in U.S. from wildfires from 2010 to 2019, mostly in the West. This is more than double the 3.0 million per year that burned in the 1980s, and environmentalists attribute the increase to global warming.
Another possible cause: horrific forestry management policy. In the 1930s, the average acres burned yearly was 39.1 million, over five times higher than today. Global warming cannot explain this shift, but radical changes in land management can. In the 20th century fire minimization was a priority, and steps were taken to safeguard forests and the homes that were increasingly being built in fire-prone areas. This included clearing brush, culling old trees, creating fire breaks and other prudent preventive measures.
This began to change in the 1980s, when environmentalist ideas began to gain more traction politically. Old methods of wildfire prevention were abandoned in favor of an ideological attachment to more natural – which is to say, flammable – forests and grasslands. The clearing slowed and the tinder piled up.
When nature began to reassert itself and more acres burned, it became a self-fulfilling prophesy for the “warmists,” who blamed climate change instead of bad public policy. Pundits mocked President Trump in 2018 when he toured fire-ravaged California and suggested poor land-management practices were to blame. He said then that a lot of problems could be avoided through returning to common-sense brush clearing and “cleaning the forests.” But “Make America Rake Again” didn’t catch on, and now California is seeing record-setting costs from fire damage.
Wildfires can start in many ways, such as from lightning, or a discarded cigarette, or a spark from a campfire or cookout. A massive fire in El Dorado, California was caused by careless fireworks from a gender reveal party. A Congressional Research Service study found that 88% of wildfires are caused by human activity, and Washington State public lands commissioner Hilary Franz believes that all of the 58 fires that broke out in her state over Labor Day were the fault of people.
It doesn’t take a great leap in logic to figure that the same types of anarchists who have been setting random fires in Seattle, Portland and other urban areas might take their show on the road. Wildfire terrorism was the subject of an ISIS how-to video last July, and pyro-terrorism is such an obvious low-cost, high-impact method of attack that it is strange we haven’t seen more of it. And if the argument against the connection between radicals and wildfires is that it gains them nothing, just look at the remains of burned-out buildings in areas hit by the recent urban unrest. Setting fire to minority-owned businesses makes about as much sense as setting a forest ablaze, which is to say none.
Because rumors of Antifa involvement outstripped the evidence, tech companies are doing their best to make sure that people can’t discuss the issue at all. Twitter and Facebook are taking down posts linking Antifa to the wildfires. Politifact has pronounced the idea of politically motivated wildfire arson false. Law enforcement officials have cautioned against rumors of fires started by radical groups on the left or right. But whether the arsonists are trying to make a political statement or simply giving vent to a perverse pyromania, fires are definitely being set. And you don’t need global warming to supply the fuel when you have decades of underbrush ready to burn courtesy of the environmental extremists.
Chris Farrell is director of investigations and research at Judicial Watch, a nonprofit government watchdog. He is a former military intelligence officer.