Joel Taylor and family wearing air masks to protect from fire smoke
Bethel Music CEO Joel Taylor started 2018 in the hospital with both his children. Two-year-old Jaxon and four-year-old Addie both contracted a life-threatening E.coli infection. Miraculously, the hospital released both days later with no remaining health issues.
Now, Taylor is concerned about his children once again and speaking out against the smoky air in his hometown of Redding. It's coming from the Hirz fire, just north of the city, and Taylor believes the US Forest Service has bungled the attack against the fire. It's the second fire this summer to directly impact air quality in Redding, a city of 90,000 two hours north of Sacramento.
The forest service has fought the Hirz fire alongside Cal Fire, the state fire agency. Since it began Aug. 9 it's burned more than 46,000 acres.
Air quality has suffered in Redding since the Carr fire began July 23, followed by the Hirz fire. The local newspaper, the Record Searchlight, reports that schools have limited outdoor activities. Others have dropped out of athletic events like a local fun-run series. Many have resorted to regular use of air masks to provide some protection.
The Taylors, like many other Redding families, have tried to keep their children indoors.
Taylor posted on Instagram this week that he's concerned about how the smoky, ashy air is affecting his children's health and pointed the finger at the US Forest Service which he says "often chooses to do 'managed burns' or modified suppression' that last many weeks."
Taylor told CBN News Wednesday that he thinks it's ridiculous that firefighters are still fighting the Hirz fire. "The community is suffering greatly," he said. "Everyone's kid's are locked inside."
Retired Cal Fire fire captain Mark Mack told CBN News that the US Forest Service and Cal Fire simply have different philosophies stemming from the resources they protect. Cal Fire oversees private and state lands and the US Forest Service oversees national forests. Cal Fire's stated mission is to contain 95 percent of fires at 10 acres or less.
Mack said he can't believe that the Hirz fire got so big and believes it was not directly attacked. "The thing that really frustrates all of us," he said, "it is pumping smoke into the city, into Redding and all the way to Sacramento."
Taylor said there's a growing concern that the US Forest Service is putting environmental concerns first. "Their philosophy is more to take care of how they're controlling the forest. It feels to the people like they're more important than the actual people themselves."
On Instagram he called out a "federal environmentalist agenda" that has taken over.
It's a concern that has been brewing for some time. But a spokeswoman for the Hirz fire asserted that firefighters have been fighting the fire directly.
Fire information officer Deanna Younger told CBN News Wednesday that firefighters are not using "managed burns" or "modified suppression" to fight the Hirz fire.
She said people have rightly noted the vast acreage burned and lots of smoke but contended that the unique characteristics of the fire have led to that outcome.
Because of steep terrain in many areas, firefighters have had to put in containment lines in more stable areas that are often a distance from the fire. "There's certain places we can't put in lines that we feel will hold. Some people think – 'why didn't we just stop it right here – why did they let it go?'" she said.
Also, Younger said that pockets of unburned vegetation inside containment lines have proved problematic. Firefighters have had to go back and ignite small fires to prevent a major fire from reigniting.
"You don't want to go off and leave it too soon and then have something blow up again because it was not done right and not done thoroughly," she said.
More than 1,700 firefighters are still fighting the Hirz fire which is 70 percent contained.