Let's Put the Fire Out!

I'm a burned out, old fart with loads of experience fighting forest fires in Alaska. Please get this message to B.L.M., Fairbanks District Office. I fought forest fires all over Alaska as well as Fairbanks in the mid-1970's. I have a few pointers for you.

When I did the job, the idea was to initial attack every fire while it was small. The idea was to catch it before it went over the hill. We were successful about 100% of the time on every one we manned.

The "new management" approach has a different idea. Now they let fires burn, as they "monitor" them. It doesn't take long before the fire goes over the hill and smokes in the whole valley. Then, they back up to a natural drainage and deliberately set fire to the whole region to stop the head of a fire. In my day we never set backfires, period. If you direct attack a small fire, chances are, the air is in the process of cooling it already, so much of the work is already done. But if you backfire, you have a 100% hot line, which takes that much longer to cool. They send in hundreds of personnel to mop up miles of hot line, when a five acre fire only needs nine experienced personnel, maybe a load of retardant, and a couple of Native crews to mop up. It's that simple.