The 19

There were 19 firefighters lost fighting a fire in Arizona this week. They were consumed by smoke and fire as they attempted to prevent fire from destroying homes in a small subdivision. No home is worth 19 lives.

These firefighters were among the most highly trained in the nation. Many had come from a military background. All were trained to the highest level possible and were dedicated to their work. They were not just a team but a family that looked after each others’ backs. They were cautious and safety conscious, but nature got the best of them. The perfect storm came in the form of a huge fire combined with the winds of a thunderstorm. They became trapped with no escape. Aircraft water drops were made where the pilots thought the firefighters might be, but even that was in vain given visibility was zero.

This tragedy was in fact brought on by years of government policy of preventing forest fires. One report said that no burn had occurred in this area for over 40 years. The policy of the US Forest Service for decades was zero tolerance for forest fires. This was incredibly stupid in that it allowed debris to accumulate on the forest floors just waiting for the big one. The policy has changed in recent years to one of controlled burns. But this policy obviously did not make it to this part of Arizona. Nineteen brave and dedicated souls lost their lives.

Two points occur to me. The first is that humans don’t seem to get that building of homes should not occur in some areas where fire or flood or landslide or other high risks of serious natural events might occur is wise. Those that do build should be on their own. Secondly, safety policies should be reviewed continuously. Again, no home or subdivision is worth even one life.

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About Kent Blacklidge Ph.D.

As part of a newspaper family who owned a 34,000 daily newspaper in the heart of the Midwest, I have a passion for a strong “Fourth Estate”, the press. Without a diligent and assertive free press, the power would be taken from the people. People have the absolute right to know. After earning a degree in Industrial Management from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue, I spent over 20 years in newspaper management with several as publisher. I am also holder of three graduate science degrees including a Ph.D.. I have a passionate interest in science and the environment. I have little tolerance for ignorance and stupidity.
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