Subscribe for 17¢ / day
Guest view icon

It’s the middle of May, the winter snow just left my lawn last week and now we have six inches of new snow today. I have recently heard on the news that the “experts” say that we most likely will have another bad fire season in July, August and September.

Once again, the U.S. Forest Service is spreading propaganda to justify their failed fire strategy and to prepare the public for another ruined summer. Unless we have an extremely wet summer they can almost guarantee that we will have large fires, as they will not fight all the fires when they are small. Most of the fires last year could have been contained when they were small.

For those who think the Forest Service works for our interest, you can think again. The “new” Forest Service is managing the forest for what they consider wildlife habitat; I think corporate welfare and their own profit are also on the list. Check out how much money they can make on a fire burning all summer and how much the private out-of-state contractors make for their engines, crews, helicopters, heavy equipment and planes. There would always be a need for local contractors as some fires, like the Roaring Lion fire, could not be controlled when small.

Now Congress has given almost a blank check to do very little and let most fires burn. It looks like they will get $500 million more this year and a blank check in 2020 and beyond. I think we have the only government in the world that allows its natural resources to be burned up instead of being utilized.

The thick smoke has been proven to be extremely harmful, especially to kids, pets and people with existing health conditions. When was the last time you heard a Forest Service fire person mention the hazards of the smoke? Article II, Section 3 of the Montana Constitution guarantees the citizens a safe and clean environment.

We need to contact our federal legislators to remind them of the smoke hazards and have them work on legislation to require the Forest Service to prepare a National Environmental Policy Act document (environmental assessment or environmental impact statement) for every drainage where they plan to let a fire burn. We need to tell the state Department of Environmental Quality to enforce our right to breathe clean air. We must have a voice, as our health is at stake. A NEPA document is required for a prescribed burn.

Most of the fires last year, that started in July, had a containment dates of October 21; it is obvious that these fires were meant to be left to burn. By the use of burnout operations, they are creating “unnatural burns” of these fires. Last year thousands of acres were ignited by the “firefighters” and some of these areas burned extremely hot where it will be difficult to get anything to grow. Some of these areas have spruce and other species that were 300-plus years old. We, our kids and our grandkids will never see these forests again.

Be prepared for thick smoke, a ruined summer and “firefighters” glorified by the TV news media.

Chuck Hinkle worked for the U.S. Forest service for 38 years, including three summers starting in 1967. He fought fires in Washington, California, New Mexico, Alaska and Montana, and was a smoke chaser on the Pintler Ranger District during the '80s and '90s. He lives in Philipsburg and is running for Granite County commissioner. 


Load comments