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This fire season has been an eye opener



We’ve had long, hot fires in this area before, but none that afforded us such an opportunity to get to know how the machinery of firefighting works in this country.

As the season heated up and it became obvious resources were in far too short supply, watching what fires demanded the most and how they were used became necessary to grasping the complexity of the decision-making process.

Firefighting teams move about the country to fires where their particular skills are needed, which changes constantly. Teams are supposed to work in 14-day shifts. Some, like the team that is scheduled to move on today from the North Star and Tunk Block fires, hadn’t had the prescribed break because the need for their services was so urgent.

The logistical machinery set up to move about and supply armies of firefighters is impressive and critically important.

And, in a year like this one, not enough. As Alaska burned early and long, firefighters working there couldn’t be released by the time the West was lighting up. Of the 9 million acres burned so far in the United States this year, 5 million are in Alaska.

As the giant fires burned around Chelan, and Omak, north of Nespelem, close to Spokane, along the Columbia, some wondered why the military wasn’t called in. By law, a good law, leaders aren’t aloud to call the military into emergency civil service until all civilian resources are tapped out. Read your history on Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon and setting up tyranny to figure out why we have an aversion to using the military on our own soil.

But we did this year. Our civilian resources were all in use and it wasn’t enough. Highway 155 to Omak is now marked by military Humvees and personnel at checkpoints to active fire roads.

It’s been an interesting fire season, and we hope to never see another one like it.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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