“THEY ONLY SOURCE OF KNOWLEDGE IS EXPERIENCE.”
Anderson Creek, Starbuck, Rhea, #34 Complex, these are all names of huge fires that we have learned a lot from. Now what do we do with the knowledge? Those who manage the fighting of these fires have the facts that they have to deal with while trying to stop these fires. Their concern is protecting lives, property, and the livestock that stand in the way of these fires. Once it is all over they have to look at planning for the next call and the management of the hazard has to fall on the local governments and the people themselves.
Remember when this country was called “The Great American Desert?” Well conditions have not changed we have only learned to live with the conditions. It is not some big high sounding manmade environmental impact that dictates what happens here on the plains. It is historical and just because we have learned to live with nature does not change the facts. But my how soon we forget.
When I get to travel I have a different eye for the country I am driving through than most. Guess you have to chalk it up to an old fire horse who has seen a thing or two. For many years I have driven up the Haven-Buhler Road in Reno County and have envisioned a huge fire that will someday take out a lot of expensive homes. The cedar infestation is simply out of control. And so they have had some pretty big fires up there. (I hate being right sometimes).
The same thing as I have gone north of Burrton. There has been several big fires in that cedar infested area also. And it will continue as long as cedar trees are allowed to dominate a piece of property they will act like cans of gasoline when conditions are right.
The Flint Hills are the only ones who as a whole community have controlled burned for many years. They learned from the frontier days and by the actions of the Native Americans about keeping the grass good and the underbrush cleared.
Here in the Gypsum Hills (originally known as the Cedar Hills) we have been battling the cedars that rampantly have taken over. There are serious control burns and several companies and individuals that spend thousands of hours cutting cedars. And yet we still had the Anderson Creek Fire. Drive the Scenic Drive west of Medicine Lodge and you can see how the trees were cleared off and also how many actually survived.
I had to drive to Canton OK. for a meeting a few weeks ago. What I saw from the Kansas line clear to Canton was a disaster in the making. The cedars are choking many of the pastures and hills and there are homes and buildings nestled right in the middle of them. I could see a huge number of the people living there had not taken precautions for a fire.
Just as I had feared the entire state of Oklahoma has had major fires. There are crews from all over the US to help with the fires. The conditions were just right, drought, wind, cedar trees, and many ignition sources, (some suspected manmade).
What will be done? Even with the tragedies and the millions spent it is easier for people to go back to their old ways of doing things. After all the Federal Government is not doing a lot to prevent repeats of the huge fires in the west. Even though everyone knows that the management of forests and BLM lands needs to be put back into the hands of scientists and taken out of the control of political groups.
If we get through this season without losing a firefighter we will be very lucky. The aging of the volunteer firefighters does not stop. The attraction of younger firefighters is limited to the fact that the young leave for school and generally never come back.
It is certain that if you just don’t care and don’t support our fire departments this will continue to be a regular happening. In the mean time PRAY FOR RAIN!