After surveying the damage of the deadly Carr Fire in Redding on Monday, one of the most powerful members of the Trump administration came away with a forceful message: Time for a new approach to a nightmare problem.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called for better forest management to remove dying trees and brush. That plan, though, is already stirring some debate.
Zinke said the drought is creating dryness, and temperatures are rising and whether or not it's climate change, "we have a responsibility to deal with the aftermath."
Within devastated pockets of Lake Redding Estates, people like Denise Francis are trying to believe in a better future. For Francis, it's is her second life-altering fire.
"Terrible. A nightmare. A living hell," she said. "The first one, I was really young, and I was able to build, and this was what I built! This was my whole marriage, this was my whole life that I don’t have anymore."
Six people died in the massive fire, which has burned more than 202,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes since it erupted July 23. It was 61 percent contained as of Monday evening, according to Cal Fire.
Menawhile, Zinke pledged to prevent what he calls unprecedented "fuel loads" from causing more hellacious fires.
"This is not the new norm. It doesn’t have to be," he said. "It’s prescribed burns late in the season; it’s mechanical extraction; it’s better forest management. We know how to do it. Our frontline supervisors and superintendents just need the tools and the authority to do it."
But forest management, which includes tree removal and logging, has not landed well with many environmentalists, who counter that climate change is the primary catalyst of the devastation, not dead trees.
"Look, whether you’re a proponent or an opponent, a believer or nonbeliever of climate change, it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to manage our public lands," Zinke said.