The Real Reason California Has More Wildfires Than Finland

Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

US President Donald Trump, garbling something the Finnish president said about forest management, believes that the snowy country has fewer wildfires than California because they rake up leaves in the wilderness.

Shockingly, this is not true.

As the New York Times reports, Finnish forests benefit from a combination of luck and non-stupid forest management:

  • Finland is cold and snowy, while California is mostly hot and dry. (Finland’s summer temperatures rarely get above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and around this time of year the weather tends to be wet.)

  • Logging roads crisscross Finland’s forests, slowing down fires while giving firefighters easy access.

  • Aviation clubs are paid to do fire surveillance, looking for fires from the air.

  • Finnish forest managers remove some of the dead trees (not, uh, leaves) to remove a small percentage of the flammable material.

Perhaps here in Australia we could learn from Finland’s strategies, but no amount of raking will make California wetter or slow down the Santa Ana winds that fan the flames, nor will it eliminate “forest” fires in places that are, like Malibu, not actually made of forests.


    Perhaps here in Australia we could learn from Finland’s strategies,

    Interestingly in a lot of places around Australia we used to do moderate clearing and back-burning to reduce fire risk. But it's become a no-no over the last 20(ish) years because of the more green push in local government.

    Note: I'm not talking about clearing as in for housing developments, I mean fire roads, removing excessive dead undergrowth and the like. It was actually pretty common when I was a kid. But it got stopped in a bunch of places because "omg you're hurting the environment". Then five or ten years later "Boom! Severe bushfires".

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