An Ounce Of Prevention…

Only the most hard-hearted could fail to feel sympathy for the citizens of Colorado Springs, evacuated from their homes as forest fires engulf the area.

It’s not exactly the poorest area of America. A quick glance at local realtor sites reveals a plethora of homes with price tags in the $millions.

The problem of wildfires in America is nothing new. They’re a regular occurrence, particularly in the drier, western, states. No-one ever suggests preventative measures, other than not lighting camp fires, or dropping cigarette ends, when the undergrowth is tinder-dry.

Yet, there are very effective preventative measures practiced in other countries, perhaps more prepared to spend the money on resources than rely on that good old American attitude of, ‘hope for the best and trust in God’.

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No, sorry, citizens of Colorado, it didn’t work for Governor Perry and the people of Texas, and it won’t work for you. In the unlikely event of rain falling in your area, it won’t be the hand of God but a quirk of Mother Nature. And, it’s no good praying to her. Her job is to look after the planet, not its inhabitants.

American firefighters, like others of that trade the world over, do an amazing job and cannot be praised enough. It’s just a pity the State of Colorado allows these fires to become so rampant in the first place.

There is a profession, largely unpracticed in America. It’s called Forest Management. Trees are living things. Like all life on Earth they shed their dead bits on a regular basis. Over time, those dead bits build up, stifling the new growth underneath. When this dry brush becomes too much, Mother Nature sets fire to it, burning it away and allowing the forests to rejuvenate.

Of course, if a tribe of Homo sapiens comes along and insists on building dwellings in the forest, they must take action to ensure they don’t get burnt along with the undergrowth.

Unfortunately, they do nothing. Instead, they hope for the best, trust in God, and get burned.

Other nations practice successful forest management. Trees are thinned, dead brush is removed on a regular basis and taken to a convenient, safe, site and burned. Wide fire breaks are constructed and kept in good condition by forestry workers. The UK, for example, rarely has a wildfire. The Forestry Commission (a government agency) is responsible for fire prevention in its one million hectares of forest throughout England, Wales, and Scotland. When a fire does occur, it’s easy to control because of the preventative measures in place. Private logging companies, common in America, are only concerned with profit and will usually leave a fire-hazard mess behind. UK logging is controlled by the Forestry Commission, and any private loggers have to clean up the site before they leave.[1]

No doubt, the cynics would argue that American forests are much too vast for such treatment to be viable. It’s true, but dwellings would be protected if forested areas within, say, forty or fifty miles, were properly managed.

Of course, that might mean raising state taxes to pay for it, and most Americans would rather ‘hope for the best and trust in God’ than pay higher taxes. God forbid!

Remember Hurricane Katrina? Who could forget it? Instead of taking preventative action and improving the levees pre-Katrina, they hoped for the best, trusted in God, and got wet.

Nobody listens to Benjamin Franklin anymore. He coined the adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” At the time, 1736, he was organizing the prevention of fires in Philadelphia, so the quote is highly relevant. He was right, of course, but these days no-one wants to spend money preventing something that might happen. After all, isn’t that why sensible people have insurance?

The folks of Colorado, those who’ve lost loved ones, beloved pets, irreplaceable family heirlooms and treasures, childhood photographs, mementos, will now realize that even the best insurance doesn’t cover everything. In fact, it really doesn’t cover much at all.

Maybe a few more dollars in state tax, to pay for proper forestry management and fire prevention, would have proved the best insurance of all.

[1] “Forestry Commission” Wikipedia.

2 Replies to “An Ounce Of Prevention…”

  1. I feel for those who’ve lost everything. As you say RJ, insurance really doesn’t cover much at all – just “stuff”. I learned this myself when we lost everything in a fire in the UK in 1996 – a fire under very different circumstances I should add, but resulting loss similar except that we were not filthy rich.

    Wildfires are another scary monster for us in this part of the world, along with tornadoes. Some landowners in Oklahoma and Texas do their best to prevent any fire spreading by some of the means you mention – we notice this a lot when out and about in the car. But more could be done by state government for sure. Beautiful Colorado – sigh – and enchanting New Mexico now both paying the price. My two favourite states to visit.

  2. This trusting in God BS has got to stop. Science and prevention are abandoned in the hope the Great Invisible Cosmic Housekeeper will take care of everything and if he doesn’t, it’s your own damn fault for your lack of faith.
    I could cry.

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