By Larry D. Rea –
“What was that? That loud bang. . . sounded like a shotgun blast. . . no one should be hunting with all these hikers on the trail. . . too dangerous.” No one considered fireworks because everyone knew about the fire danger. And, why would someone hike several miles into the Willamette National Forest to set off fireworks? Moments later plumes of smoke began rising from where the explosive noises emanated… and worst fears were quickly realized.
“Get out . . . Get out . . . forest fire . . . forest fire . . . go back . . . ”
There was a forest fire ahead and now a forest fire behind. 170 hikers trapped by forest fire and insurmountable terrain spent the night huddled in a tunnel while forest fires raged around them. The next day they escaped, unharmed, thankful.
Eventually entire towns would be evacuated while the Scenic Columbia River Gorge burned. More than 3,000 people would be evacuated from their homes, to wonder what they would find standing upon their return. The watershed for the city of Portland would be endangered. Countless numbers of people would mourn the loss of scenic forests and historic buildings.
Teenagers carelessly tossing firecrackers were ultimately blamed for setting the fire. Now the questions begin but we already know this: no one person can afford to make restitution for the damage caused by those few moments of careless fun.
Who is responsible? Probably not the teenagers… they may be too young for legal responsibility. Did some responsible adult know about the firecrackers? Did they smile and wink knowing police enforcement was unlikely? Did they smile and wink when illegal fireworks were purchased? Did they somehow believe nothing bad could happen? Are they smiling now? Are we smiling now?
Oregon’s Governor was quoted as saying those responsible would be held accountable… really? … that might be true if we were all accountable because all of us will eventually pay the cost.
Given the fire danger should the Governor of Oregon close the woods, making thoughtless people stay home? Ban humans from the wilderness we are so proud to own? Is she rolling the dice with Oregon’s scenic treasures? Those are questions you can answer.
Photo by Larry D. Rea www.taxaflora.com