Should fires be left to burn?

HIGHLAND, Calif. Water dropping helicopters and supporting crews from three agencies were on the ground Friday working quick to get a fast moving grass fire under control in the Temescal Canyon area of Riverside County.

The flames got very close to a number of homes. Quick action was the key.

But what about fires in the National Forest? Unlike Friday's situation where homes were threatened and there was a lot of development, there are critics of agencies reacting too quickly in fires in some areas of the forest.

"If we have fires that get established, even if they're unplanned in the middle of a national forest or national park, where there are no existing structures, we should be watching the fires rather than putting them out," said Professor Richard Minnich from the University of California Riverside.

"Quite often in the last decade we've been losing thousands of structures at the Wildlife Urban Interface in Los Angeles," adds Minnich. "If we had been watching those same areas have fires in ordinary conditions, which would likely be burning in the towns and into the mountains, we would not have these land use catastrophes."

We asked a retired captain with the L.A. City Fire Department if the fires should be left to burn?

"For certain conditions if it's gonna allow new growth to propagate , I would say yeah. But if it threatens life of property I would say definitely not," said retired captain Seferino Godinez.

Both the captain and the professor's opinion are based on pretty much common sense. But in California's National Forest, where there is so much development, it would be a tough call for a fire agency not to react to even the smallest blaze.

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