Only you prevented forest fires

Something very good happened this past summer, and it’s sort of being overlooked. It shouldn’t be.

The people responsible for this good niceness, folks who should be affectionately slapped on the back with a hearty, “Well done!” are none other than you and me. And it’s not for something we did, really, but for something we didn’t do. We didn’t burn up the state of Nevada.

Remember back in early June, how we kept hearing fearful trepidations and foreboding speculations from the guardians of forest and range about how we were on the verge of what would very likely be another disastrous fire season? How all the drought-plagued timber and tinder dry vegetation had set the stage for a very busy summer for firefighters? Well, here we are, five months later, and guess what? Nothing happened!

Oh sure, there were a couple of lightning-caused fires that didn’t do much, due to effective responses by fire crews, and there was that one extremely scary afternoon in July when an idiot flicked a butt off the gondola at Heavenly Valley and very nearly turned the Tahoe Basin into Satan’s Summer Camp. But after that, for the next three and a half months, it was nada, zip and zilch.

Getting through a whole summer with only one idiot; that’s pretty damned good and pretty damned unusual, too. When you think of the sheer numbers of dingdongs, halfwits and chowderheads out there poised to do something moronic with fire on a daily basis, well, we were obviously more than a little lucky. But, then again, it’s also obvious that a whole lot of us who love to be outdoors during the summer in this gigantically grand region of beauteous solitude and scrumptious space paid a little attention this year and made damned sure that we kept it together out there in the weeds. So, on behalf of the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Division of Wildlife and Smokey the Bear, let me say, “Hey Nevadans, way to not screw up!”

Speaking of fires, while we were spared monster blazes in our state this summer, there was that truly horrid and enormous scorcher in southwestern Oregon that burned for weeks, fouling our skies for most of August as it torched more acres than each of the more publicized giant fires in Colorado and Arizona. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to break bread with a man who works for a government agency that knows a whole bunch about fires and firefighting in the West. We were talking about the Oregon mess, and he said that particular fire could have been put out a lot faster than it was. I asked what exactly that meant, and he said, “Well, you know, there are an awful lot of marijuana growers in that part of Oregon …”

I don’t know if that insinuation is well founded, but in light of the federal government’s ongoing hatred of a plant that simply doesn’t deserve it, it’s disturbingly easy to believe.