Smokey was and is wrong…very wrong

By By [email protected]

By [email protected]

I worked for the federal government as a wildland firefighter for almost 9 years. Although I enjoyed my time spent “defending our nations natural resources”, it was a double edged sword for me. Sure it was glamorous, paid good, and had many perks, but all in all it was a prime example of government excess, and the “fat” of the system hard at work. “Big boys with big toys”, and these boys have bottomless checking accounts, is how we used refer to our beloved job. The thing is, we know now that wildfire is a natural part of the ecosystem, it isnt cliche to say that the forests need to burn. Either they need to burn on their own, be logged, or entirely left alone. It doesnt matter how much money our government throws at these natural and neccesary events of nature, they will continue to burn even long after our species is gone. The average everday citizen soaks up the drama of wildfires, praises the firefighters as heros, and sits back in awe at these events. But nobody bothers to look at the ridiculous costs associated with curtailing the fires. It is political like everything, and out of control. I could go on forever about the excess in fire camps, the excess personel, equipment, and damage done to the environment.The damge done to the forests from suppression far outweighs, the damge done from the natural act of fire itself. I have been on fires where river ecosystems have been destroyed from fire retardent, fuel spills, and firefighter carelessness in what they do with there trash. It is seriously unbeliievable, and if the media focused 1/100th of a percent on the impact of suppression that they give to the drama of the event- the public would cry out for change.All of these homes that have been lost in southern california, could have been saved, if only the owners of the homes had taken simple prevantative measures to defend their homes. It’s simple- remove the stuff that burns around your house, and there is nothing for the fire to consume. It is unfair that our government wastes MASSIVE amounts of money and resources defending these homes, when the owners didnt take responsibility and make their homes safer. Wildfire isnt like a hurricane, you cant control when and how hard a hurricane hits, but with wildfire you can, you can simply let it burn around you.Nontheless years of arrogant war like propaganda with smokey the bear at the helm have convinced the american public, that fire is an evil monster that must be squashed. Guess what folks, its never going to happen.Take the money wasted on fighting mother nature, and put it back into all the other areas that are lacking…schools, research, healthcare. And finally, the unfortunate deaths that have occurred as a result of wildfire suppression are even more unfortunate, and most of all preventable. These firefighters have died protecting bushes that will grow back no matter what, and homes that were improperly built and uncaringly placed, that can ultimately be replaced.I ulitmately left the wildfire organization because of these feelings, and no longer felt comfortable spending my life foolishly “battling”, mother nature and literally burning up precious tax paying citizens money. Please folks educate yourself, go to the National Interagency Fire Center homepage (www.nifc.gov), and look up the situation report. Look up the facts on the costs, the overall loss, and the excess of the battle. The turning point for me, was fighting a 50 acre fire in the wilderness of Oregon for seven days that ultiamtely cost over 50 million dollars, and at the end of the seven days- it snowed- and guess what?… crews were still out mopping up the fire in a foot of snow at a cost of 2 million dollars per day becuase the incident management team was afraid of reburn potential…in october…in the snow…where is the common sense? (And dont kid yourself, this sort of excess is common everyday practice in the glamorous world of Smokey the Bear and all his loyal troops).Matt MeyerJunior, Bioengineering