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Smoke, extreme heat pose harsh test for West Coast vineyards

Smoke, extreme heat pose harsh test for West Coast vineyards

TURNER, Ore. — The heat wave that recently hit the Pacific Northwest subjected the region’s vineyards to record-breaking temperatures nine months after the fields that produce world-class wine were blanketed by wildfire smoke.But when temperatures began climbing close to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) in late June, the grapes in Oregon and Washington state were still young, as small as BB’s, many still shaded by leaf canopies that had not been trimmed back yet.The good news for grape growers, wineries and wine lovers is the historic heat wave came during a narrow window when the fruit suffered little, if any, damage. Earlier or later in the growing season, it could have been disastrous.The bad news is that extreme weather events and wildfires are apt to become more frequent because of climate change. A less intense heat wave again hit parts of the U.S. West just about a week after extreme temperatures gripped the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia on June 25 and lingered for several days, causing what could be hundreds of heat-related deaths.This cool, rainy part of the country normally experiences plenty of sunny summer days but winemakers are worried about what’s still ahead amid a historic drought tied to climate change: Extremely high temperatures could hit yet again, and wildfires are expected to be ferocious.That includes Christine Clair, winery director of Willamette Valley Vineyards in the city of Turner, just outside Oregon’s capital. She watched rare winds last September smother the Willamette Valley, famed for its delicate pinot noir, in smoke from nearby flames.”Last year was our first experience in the Willamette Valley with wildfires and smoke impact from them. Though it was considered a once-in-a-100-year east wind event, we believe we are at risk annually now,” Clair said.In recent years, wineries worldwide began hedging their bets against global warming and its fallout by moving to cooler zones, planting varieties that do better in heat and drought, and shading their grapes with more leaf canopy.Similarly, in the wake of the Northwest heat wave, wineries plan to protect their crops from more blistering sunshine.At Dusted Valley Vintners, in Walla Walla, Washington, less of the leaf canopy will be trimmed to keep the grapes shaded and prevent sunburn, co-owner Chad Johnson said.Workers, who are restricted to morning work on very hot days, also will leave more grapes on the vine so the fruit ripens slower, Johnson said.He has never seen conditions so early in the summer like those during the heat wave, with the thermometer climbing above 100 F (38 C) for several days in the eastern Washington town near the Oregon border.“It is definitely unusual and unprecedented in my career since I’ve been making wine for 20 years here,” Johnson said.June 29 was the hottest day in Walla Walla’s recorded history, reaching 116 F (47 C) and breaking the previous record by two degrees.Climate change, Johnson noted, has become a major concern for him and other wine producers worldwide.“If it’s not this early horrible spring frost they’re having over in Europe this year, it’s wildfires in the West, with the drought. It’s always something,” Johnson said. “And it’s getting just more severe every year.”The industry, meanwhile, has been totaling the damage from last year’s wildfires that covered California, Oregon and Washington state in thick smoke.So many California growers worried about unpleasant “smoke taint” in the wine produced from their grapes that they tried to get the fruit tested to see if the crops were worth harvesting.The few testing labs were so overwhelmed they couldn’t meet demand. Some wineries opted not to risk turning some of their own grapes into bad wine and hurting their brand and stopped accepting untested grapes from growers.“Without question the financial toll on California winegrape growers has proven to be unprecedented,” John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, said in an email.Industry estimates show California growers had losses of $601 million from wine grapes that went unharvested, Aguirre said.“The risk of wildfires appears to be greater today than in the past and that is very, very troubling for many growers,” Aguirre said, noting that they also must contend with heat, drought, frost, excessive rain, pests and disease.Wineries can do little to prevent wildfires outside their property, but if they become inundated with smoke, they can try to minimize damage. For example, they may turn some of the grapes with heavier smoke exposure into rosé instead of red wine. That limits contact with the skin of the grape during wine production and can lower the concentration of smoke aroma compounds.A report on California’s harvest by the San Francisco-based Wine Institute said that despite the challenges, many winemakers are excited about the 2020 vintage.Corey Beck, CEO and head of winemaking at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County, California, said he is optimistic based on small-batch fermentation trials.“It was like, ‘Oh my god, these wines are terrific,’” Beck told the Wine Institute.Willamette Valley Vineyards also had fermented small samples of grapes to gauge whether smoke would affect the resulting wine. Its Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2020 vintage received good ratings from Wine Enthusiast magazine.But winemaking has become so difficult and competitive that when people ask Johnson for advice about getting into the industry, he tries to dissuade them.“The first thing I do is tell them that’s probably not a good idea,” he said. “It’s really, really hard, and it’s getting harder and harder.”———Follow Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

Smoke, extreme heat pose harsh test for West Coast vineyards

Smoke, extreme heat pose harsh test for West Coast vineyards

TURNER, Ore. — The heat wave that recently hit the Pacific Northwest subjected the region’s vineyards to record-breaking temperatures nine months after the fields that produce world-class wine were blanketed by wildfire smoke.But when temperatures began climbing close to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 Celsius) in late June, the grapes in Oregon and Washington state were still young, as small as BB’s, many still shaded by leaf canopies that had not been trimmed back yet.The good news for grape growers, wineries and wine lovers is the historic heat wave came during a narrow window when the fruit suffered little, if any, damage. Earlier or later in the growing season, it could have been disastrous.The bad news is that extreme weather events and wildfires are apt to become more frequent because of climate change. A less intense heat wave again hit parts of the U.S. West just about a week after extreme temperatures gripped the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia on June 25 and lingered for several days, causing what could be hundreds of heat-related deaths.This cool, rainy part of the country normally experiences plenty of sunny summer days but winemakers are worried about what’s still ahead amid a historic drought tied to climate change: Extremely high temperatures could hit yet again, and wildfires are expected to be ferocious.That includes Christine Clair, winery director of Willamette Valley Vineyards in the city of Turner, just outside Oregon’s capital. She watched rare winds last September smother the Willamette Valley, famed for its delicate pinot noir, in smoke from nearby flames.”Last year was our first experience in the Willamette Valley with wildfires and smoke impact from them. Though it was considered a once-in-a-100-year east wind event, we believe we are at risk annually now,” Clair said.In recent years, wineries worldwide began hedging their bets against global warming and its fallout by moving to cooler zones, planting varieties that do better in heat and drought, and shading their grapes with more leaf canopy.Similarly, in the wake of the Northwest heat wave, wineries plan to protect their crops from more blistering sunshine.At Dusted Valley Vintners, in Walla Walla, Washington, less of the leaf canopy will be trimmed to keep the grapes shaded and prevent sunburn, co-owner Chad Johnson said.Workers, who are restricted to morning work on very hot days, also will leave more grapes on the vine so the fruit ripens slower, Johnson said.He has never seen conditions so early in the summer like those during the heat wave, with the thermometer climbing above 100 F (38 C) for several days in the eastern Washington town near the Oregon border.“It is definitely unusual and unprecedented in my career since I’ve been making wine for 20 years here,” Johnson said.June 29 was the hottest day in Walla Walla’s recorded history, reaching 116 F (47 C) and breaking the previous record by two degrees.Climate change, Johnson noted, has become a major concern for him and other wine producers worldwide.“If it’s not this early horrible spring frost they’re having over in Europe this year, it’s wildfires in the West, with the drought. It’s always something,” Johnson said. “And it’s getting just more severe every year.”The industry, meanwhile, has been totaling the damage from last year’s wildfires that covered California, Oregon and Washington state in thick smoke.So many California growers worried about unpleasant “smoke taint” in the wine produced from their grapes that they tried to get the fruit tested to see if the crops were worth harvesting.The few testing labs were so overwhelmed they couldn’t meet demand. Some wineries opted not to risk turning some of their own grapes into bad wine and hurting their brand and stopped accepting untested grapes from growers.“Without question the financial toll on California winegrape growers has proven to be unprecedented,” John Aguirre, president of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, said in an email.Industry estimates show California growers had losses of $601 million from wine grapes that went unharvested, Aguirre said.“The risk of wildfires appears to be greater today than in the past and that is very, very troubling for many growers,” Aguirre said, noting that they also must contend with heat, drought, frost, excessive rain, pests and disease.Wineries can do little to prevent wildfires outside their property, but if they become inundated with smoke, they can try to minimize damage. For example, they may turn some of the grapes with heavier smoke exposure into rosé instead of red wine. That limits contact with the skin of the grape during wine production and can lower the concentration of smoke aroma compounds.A report on California’s harvest by the San Francisco-based Wine Institute said that despite the challenges, many winemakers are excited about the 2020 vintage.Corey Beck, CEO and head of winemaking at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Sonoma County, California, said he is optimistic based on small-batch fermentation trials.“It was like, ‘Oh my god, these wines are terrific,’” Beck told the Wine Institute.Willamette Valley Vineyards also had fermented small samples of grapes to gauge whether smoke would affect the resulting wine. Its Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2020 vintage received good ratings from Wine Enthusiast magazine.But winemaking has become so difficult and competitive that when people ask Johnson for advice about getting into the industry, he tries to dissuade them.“The first thing I do is tell them that’s probably not a good idea,” he said. “It’s really, really hard, and it’s getting harder and harder.”———Follow Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

Oregon adopts most protective heat rules for workers in US

Oregon adopts most protective heat rules for workers in US

Oregon has adopted an emergency rule that strengthens requirements for employers to protect workers from extreme heat in what advocates call the nation’s most protective heat rulesBy ANDREW SELSKY Associated PressJuly 8, 2021, 9:08 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSALEM, Ore. — Oregon adopted an emergency rule Thursday that strengthens requirements for employers to safeguard workers from extreme heat, including expanding access to shade and cool water in what advocates called the nation’s most protective heat rules following deadly record-high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.“With these new rules, Oregon has a chance to lead the country in ensuring workplaces are safe from high heat, especially for those doing the most demanding and dangerous jobs like farming and construction,” said Kate Suisman, an attorney with the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project.The emergency rule adopted by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division, or Oregon OSHA, also mandates regular cooldown breaks and communication between employees and supervisors so workers can report concerns.Among the more than 100 people in Oregon who died during the extreme heat wave in late June was an immigrant from Guatemala who was working outside, the state medical examiner said. He was part of a crew at a plant nursery that was moving irrigation lines. Oregon OSHA is investigating both the nursery and the labor contractor.“Oregon OSHA is taking an important step forward in leading the nation on standards for outdoors workers,” said Reyna Lopez, executive director of the Oregon farmworkers’ union, known by its Spanish acronym as PCUN. “It’s crucial that we continue to take steps toward long-term policy shifts in our state, that take climate change, and workers safety seriously.”Oregon OSHA said the temporary rule is effective immediately and stays in place for 180 days.“In the face of an unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest — and tragic consequences — it is absolutely critical that we continue to build up our defenses against the effects of climate change, including extreme heat events,” said Andrew Stolfi, director of the state agency that includes Oregon OSHA.The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and British Columbia that was worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more likely and more intense.Seattle, Portland and many other cities broke all-time heat records, with temperatures in some places reaching above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius).Oregon has recorded 116 deaths from the heat wave, while Washington state said Thursday that its toll had risen to 78. Authorities say hundreds of deaths may ultimately be attributed to the heat throughout the region.Amid a historic drought, temperatures are spiking in parts of the U.S. West again this week but are less intense than the earlier heat wave.Under Oregon’s new rules for workers, when the heat index is at or above 80 F (27 C), employers are required to provide access to sufficient shade and an adequate supply of drinking water.When the heat index rises above 90 F (32 C), employers also must ensure effective communication between workers and supervisors so workers can report concerns, ensure that employees are observed for alertness and signs of heat illness, and provide a cool-down rest period in the shade of 10 minutes for every two hours of work.

Oregon adopts most protective heat rules for workers in US

Oregon adopts most protective heat rules for workers in US

Oregon has adopted an emergency rule that strengthens requirements for employers to protect workers from extreme heat in what advocates call the nation’s most protective heat rulesBy ANDREW SELSKY Associated PressJuly 8, 2021, 9:08 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleSALEM, Ore. — Oregon adopted an emergency rule Thursday that strengthens requirements for employers to safeguard workers from extreme heat, including expanding access to shade and cool water in what advocates called the nation’s most protective heat rules following deadly record-high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest.“With these new rules, Oregon has a chance to lead the country in ensuring workplaces are safe from high heat, especially for those doing the most demanding and dangerous jobs like farming and construction,” said Kate Suisman, an attorney with the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project.The emergency rule adopted by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division, or Oregon OSHA, also mandates regular cooldown breaks and communication between employees and supervisors so workers can report concerns.Among the more than 100 people in Oregon who died during the extreme heat wave in late June was an immigrant from Guatemala who was working outside, the state medical examiner said. He was part of a crew at a plant nursery that was moving irrigation lines. Oregon OSHA is investigating both the nursery and the labor contractor.“Oregon OSHA is taking an important step forward in leading the nation on standards for outdoors workers,” said Reyna Lopez, executive director of the Oregon farmworkers’ union, known by its Spanish acronym as PCUN. “It’s crucial that we continue to take steps toward long-term policy shifts in our state, that take climate change, and workers safety seriously.”Oregon OSHA said the temporary rule is effective immediately and stays in place for 180 days.“In the face of an unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest — and tragic consequences — it is absolutely critical that we continue to build up our defenses against the effects of climate change, including extreme heat events,” said Andrew Stolfi, director of the state agency that includes Oregon OSHA.The heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and British Columbia that was worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more likely and more intense.Seattle, Portland and many other cities broke all-time heat records, with temperatures in some places reaching above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius).Oregon has recorded 116 deaths from the heat wave, while Washington state said Thursday that its toll had risen to 78. Authorities say hundreds of deaths may ultimately be attributed to the heat throughout the region.Amid a historic drought, temperatures are spiking in parts of the U.S. West again this week but are less intense than the earlier heat wave.Under Oregon’s new rules for workers, when the heat index is at or above 80 F (27 C), employers are required to provide access to sufficient shade and an adequate supply of drinking water.When the heat index rises above 90 F (32 C), employers also must ensure effective communication between workers and supervisors so workers can report concerns, ensure that employees are observed for alertness and signs of heat illness, and provide a cool-down rest period in the shade of 10 minutes for every two hours of work.

Hundreds believed dead in heat wave despite efforts to help

Hundreds believed dead in heat wave despite efforts to help

SALEM, Ore. — Many of the dead were found alone, in homes without air conditioning or fans. Some were elderly — one as old as 97. The body of an immigrant farm laborer was found in an Oregon nursery.As forecasters warned of a record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada last weekend, officials set up cooling centers, distributed water to the homeless and took other steps. Still, hundreds of people are believed to have died from Friday to Tuesday.An excessive heat warning remained in effect for parts of the interior Northwest and western Canada Thursday.The death toll in Oregon alone reached at least 70, with the number in Multnomah County, which encompasses Portland, at 50.In Canada, British Columbia’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said her office received reports of at least 486 “sudden and unexpected deaths” between Friday and Wednesday afternoon. Normally, she said about 165 people would die in the province over a five-day period.She said it was too soon to say with certainty how many deaths were heat related, but that it was likely the heat was behind most of them.Washington state authorities have linked more than 20 deaths to the heat, but authorities said that number was likely to rise.In Oregon’s Multnomah County, the average victim’s age was 67 and the oldest was 97, according to county Health Officer Jennifer Vines.In a telephone interview Thursday, Vines said she had been worried about fatalities amid the weather forecasts. Authorities tried to prepare as best they could, turning nine air-conditioned county libraries into cooling centers.Between Friday and Monday, 7,600 people cooled off amid the stacks of books. Others went to three more cooling centers. Nearly 60 teams sought out homeless people, offering water and electrolytes.“We scoured the county with outreach efforts, with calls to building managers of low-income housing to be checking on their residents,” Vines said.But the efforts weren’t enough, she said: “It’s been really sobering to see these initial (fatality) numbers come out.”Oregon Office of Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps agreed. “Learning of the tragic loss of life as a result of the recent heat wave is heartbreaking. As an emergency manager – and Oregonian – it is devastating that people were unable to access the help they needed during an emergency,” he said.Among the dead was a farm laborer whose body was found Saturday by fellow workers at a nursery in rural St. Paul, Oregon. The workers had been moving irrigation lines, said Aaron Corvin, spokesman for the state’s worker safety agency, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health, or Oregon OSHA.Oregon OSHA is investigating labor contractor Andres Pablo Lucas and Ernst Nursery and Farms, which did not respond to a request for comment. Pablo Lucas said the man who died was from Guatemala, but he declined to comment further.Reyna Lopez, executive director of a northwest farmworkers’ union, known by its Spanish-language initials, PCUN, called the death “shameful” and faulted both Oregon OSHA for not adopting emergency rules ahead of the heat wave, and the nursery.Corvin said Oregon OSHA is “exploring adopting emergency requirements, and we continue to engage in discussions with labor and employer stakeholders.”He added that employers are obligated to provide ample water, shade, additional breaks and training about heat hazards.An executive order issued in March 2020 by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown would formalize protecting workers from heat, but it is coming too late for the dead farmworker, whose name was not disclosed. Brown’s order focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and also tells the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon OSHA to jointly propose standards to protect workers from excessive heat and wildfire smoke.They had until June 30 to submit the proposals, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the two agencies requested the deadline be pushed back to September.In Bend, Oregon, a scenic town next to the snowy Cascade Range, the bodies of two men were found Sunday on a road where dozens of homeless people stay in trailers and tents.Volunteer Luke Richter said he stepped into the trailer where one of the men, Alonzo “Lonnie” Boardman, was found.“It was very obviously too late. It was basically a microwave in there,” Richter told Oregon Public Broadcasting.Cooling stations had been set up at the campsite on Saturday, with water, sports drinks and ice available.Weather experts say the number of heat waves are only likely to rise in the Pacific Northwest, a region normally known for cool, rainy weather, with a few hot, sunny days mixed in, and where many people don’t have air conditioning.“I think the community has to be realistic that we are going to be having this as a more usual occurrence and not a one-off, and that we need to be preparing as a community,” said Dr. Steven Mitchell of Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center, which treated an unprecedented number of severe heat-related cases. “We need to be really augmenting our disaster response.”This week’s heat wave was caused by what meteorologists described as a dome of high pressure over the Northwest and worsened by human-caused climate change, which is making such extreme weather events more likely and more intense.Seattle, Portland and many other cities broke all-time heat records, with temperatures in some places reaching above 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 Celsius).———Associated Press journalist Manuel Valdes contributed to this report from Seattle.———Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

Amid clamor to increase prescribed burns, obstacles await

Amid clamor to increase prescribed burns, obstacles await

SALEM, Ore. — In the 1950s, when University of California forestry professor Harold Biswell experimented with prescribed burns in the state’s pine forests, many people thought he was nuts.“Harry the Torch,” “Burn-Em-Up Biswell” and “Doctor Burnwell” were some of his nicknames from critics, who included federal and state foresters and timber groups.Six decades after Biswell preached an unpopular message to those who advocated full-on fire suppression, he is seen not as crazy but someone whose ideas could save the U.S. West’s forests and ease wildfire dangers.Millions of acres have become overgrown, prone to wildfires that have devastated towns, triggered massive evacuations and blanketed the West Coast in thick smoke.Today, officials want to sharply increase prescribed fires — those set intentionally and under carefully controlled conditions to clear underbrush, pine needle beds and other surface fuels.Last month, four Democratic U.S. senators — Ron Wyden of Oregon, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Maria Cantwell of Washington and Dianne Feinstein of California — introduced legislation that requires federal land managers to significantly increase the number and size of prescribed fires on federal lands. Wyden said it would more than double funding for prescribed burns.“We would have a technically skilled prescribed fire workforce,” Wyden said in a phone interview. “We would streamline the smoke regulations in winter months.”Wyden and the Biden administration are also seeking creation of a 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps, to provide more boots on the ground to work on forest health.In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation on March 18 that will clear the way for more prescribed fires by establishing liability standards for landowners who conduct them and creating a certification program.In Oregon, a bill from state Sen. Jeff Golden would enact rules for prescribed fires and a certified burn manager program. He envisions Oregon having as many as hundreds of trained managers to supervise prescribed fires.“I don’t see that we have any option other than to increase the prescribed burns,” said Golden, who is from the Rogue Valley, where wildfires tore into two towns last year. “We’ve got, across the Western U.S., a buildup of decades of fuels, and it’s going to burn.”So do you want to burn in a planned, strategic way that has an element of control to it, or do you want it to burn in megafires, with all the costs — human, animal, environmental costs — that that entails?”It took years for forest managers to come around to accept and then finally embrace prescribed burning. In the first half of the 20th century, fire was seen as the enemy, with federal and state forest managers believing prescribed burning damaged the environment, particularly timber, a commercial resource. But in the late 1960s and 1970s, federal forest managers began employing prescribed burns.Yet scaling up the practice has been slow. From 1995 through 2000, an average of 1.4 million federal acres (566,560 hectares) were treated with prescribed fire each year, far short of the 70 million acres (28 million hectares) that in 2001 were in critical need of fuel reduction to avoid high-severity wildfires, biologist David Carle said in his 2002 book “Burning Questions: America’s Fight with Nature’s Fire.” Another 141 million acres (57 million hectares) also needed treatment.Several cold realities are stacked against the latest plans: The periods between wildfire seasons when prescribed burning can happen safely are shrinking; some forests are too overgrown to ignite without thinning; and prescribed fires can shroud nearby towns.“We have to be mindful of not pouring smoke into communities because that’s a violation of the Clean Air Act,” said Tim Holschbach, deputy chief of policy and planning with Oregon’s Department of Forestry.Furthermore, many landowners are reluctant to use prescribed fire because of fears of getting hit with steep costs.Some states can hold burners liable for any property damage caused by an escaped prescribed fire. Others use so-called simple negligence standards, which require the burner to practice reasonable care. A plaintiff would need to prove negligence for the burner to be responsible for damages and firefighting suppression costs. Gross negligence standards make it harder to hold people accountable, requiring plaintiffs to show burners acted with reckless disregard if fires get out of control.To encourage prescribed burning on private lands, Oregon will explore shifting from simple to gross negligence. Gov. Kate Brown signed legislation on June 11 that directs a state agency, in consultation with stakeholders, to study whether states with such standards experience more prescribed fires and more out-of-control fires. The review must also examine the accessibility of insurance coverage for prescribed fires.One of the most destructive escaped fires occurred in 2012, when the Colorado State Forest Service conducted a 50-acre (20-hectare) prescribed burn near the small town of Conifer, southwest of Denver. After the fire seemed to be out, high winds whipped it back to life.Ann Appel, 51, was among worried residents who dialed 911.“It’s blowing smoke right over my house,” she told an emergency dispatcher.“Yeah, it’s about 5 acres (2 hectares) and growing, so they’ve got crews on the way,” the dispatcher replied.Appel thanked the operator and hung up. Her body was later found in the ashes of her home.Two other people also died in the fire, which ultimately consumed 6 square miles (15.5 square kilometers) and destroyed two dozen homes.Colorado’s immunity law capped liability at $600,000 per incident, but after the fire, the Legislature removed the cap for controlled burns in cases where victims claim the state acted negligently. The state paid a total of $18 million in compensation to two dozen parties. The largest settlement, $4.8 million, went to Appel’s husband and estate.Prescribed burning has prevented disasters, and high rebuilding costs. In 2017, a wildfire threatened the resort town of Sisters, Oregon, but firefighters were able to control it because months earlier, crews removed trees and brush with machines, then ignited prescribed burns.“The fire came to a halt, both because it had less fuels and also because in the thinned, more natural forest, there was a lot more space for the firefighters,” noted Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who is pushing for more funding for forest treatment.Scott Stephens, a professor of wildland fire science at the University of California, Berkeley, wants a big increase in prescribed burns, along with mechanical forest thinning, but predicts it will be gradual due to both a lack of people trained in it and of political and societal support.That prescribed burning is now widely seen as a remedy would have been welcome news to Biswell, who died in 1992 at age 86.Harold Weaver, a forester for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was also an early advocate. In 1955, Weaver published an article titled “Fire as an enemy, friend and tool in forest management.” Like Biswell, he was cold-shouldered. The two supported each other.The West, which is more susceptible to wildfires because of its vast wildlands and dry climate, has been stepping up prescribed burns.In 2019, 3.7 million acres were treated by prescribed fire in the West, a 268% increase from 2011, the National Association of State Foresters and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils said in a report.Stephens said prescribed fire and restoration thinning should increase at least five-fold to turn things around and create healthy forests as Biswell, his predecessor at Berkeley, envisioned.“Once you get areas treated, you have to come back in around 15 years for maintenance treatments. And this never ends,” Stephens said. “This is a key point: The program has to last forever.”———Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky