Letters to the Editor

Birnbaum letter: Fire data

Niels Nokkentved, on Nov. 15, wrote on wildfires and presented so much bad data I don’t know where to begin.

Nokkentved stated that the worst fire seasons came in the late 1980s, with an annual average of 4.2 million acres burned. Not true.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the 1988 season with 5 million acres burned was the late 1980s peak. However, since 1988, 13 fire seasons have seen more acres burned, including 2015 with over 9.5 million acres burned. Nokkentved’s average for the late 1980s is not correct either, for 1987 to 1989 it is about 3 million acres burned.

He stated that 40 to 50 million acres burned annually in the early 1930s in the lower 48. This is clearly false. Idaho is roughly 53 million acres, so Nokkentved would have us believe that much land mass burned annually in the U.S. in the 1930s.

Finally, he conflated total wildland fire data as presented by the NIFC, which includes data for fires on all lands, with historical USFS fire data — the latter going back to the early 20th century.

Yes, let’s debate fire management policies, but not with bad data.

Fred Birnbaum, Boise