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'Planned Burn' in L.A. Basin

September 17, 1986

I was startled to read news accounts of a "planned burn" in the national forest of the San Gabriel Mountains sometime before December. This burn would produce a giant smoke plume to be monitored and measured as it spreads around the world.

It seems there is a dispute between the two groups of scientists: one with a computer model that says the smoke from a fire caused by a nuclear attack would cause a worldwide Ice Age; the other with a computer model that says it will get darker, but not that dark. So we will burn a piece of national forest to satisfy the computers.

That sounds like the old argument among sages as to how many angels can dance on the point of a pin, to which we can reply: "Who cares? You are missing the point!"

Apparently, the guardians of our national forest trees, chaparral, flowers, birds, Bambi, and other wild things are cooperating in this cremation. They are going to spend public funds to legitimize this arson while deploring arson generally. Will Smokey the Bear be confused?

The people of foothill communities from Pasadena to Riverside are bathed daily during warm weather with health-threatening levels of smoke and smog. The entire Los Angeles Basin bears the cost--uncounted millions of dollars yearly--to suppress smog and counter its ill effects, yet we fall short of reaching acceptable levels for air quality. People are dying because of this shortfall.

I cannot estimate the tons of air pollutants to be dumped into our skies by the "planned burn." I cannot evaluate the toll of suffering and death among older and weakened citizens. I cannot quantify the loss of wildlife, trees, ground cover, and watershed that the burn will produce. The damage will be large.

Have our public officials and the disputing scientists lost their perspective and sense of purpose? Is this game worth the candle?



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