Letter to the Editor: Fighting forest fires is wasteful and reckless

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I worked for the federal government as a wild land firefighter for almost nine years. Although I enjoyed my time spent defending our nation’s natural resources, it was a double-edged sword for me. Sure, it was glamorous, paid well 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. It was big boys with big toys, and these boys have bottomless checking accounts.

The thing is, we know now that wildfire is a natural part of the ecosystem. It isn’t clich to say that the forests need to burn. They need to burn on their own, be logged or left entirely alone. It doesn’t matter how much money our government throws at these natural and necessary events of nature. They will continue to burn even long after our species is gone. The average everyday citizen soaks up the drama of wildfires, praises the firefighters as heroes and sits back in awe at these events. Nobody bothers to look at the ridiculous costs associated with curtailing the fires.

The damage done to the forests from suppression far outweighs the damage done from the natural act of fire itself. I have been on fires where river ecosystems have been destroyed from fire retardant, fuel spills and firefighter carelessness in what they do with their trash. It is seriously unbelievable, and if the media focused one one hundredth 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 preventative 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 didn’t take responsibility and make their homes safer.

Nonetheless, 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: It’s never going to happen.

Take the money wasted on fighting mother nature and put it back into all the other areas that are lacking-like schools, research and health care.

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 ultimately left the wildfire organization because of these feelings, and I no longer felt comfortable spending my life foolishly battling mother nature and literally burning up precious tax-paying citizens’ money.

Matt Meyer

Junior, Bioengineering