Fire Wasn't Trivial

| March 07, 2013

Editor:

I was part of the initial attack crew responsible for the successful suppression of the July 2012, "Spanish Flat" wildfire caused by Mr. Evans' careless use of fire on the Lost Coast ("The Fireball," Feb. 21).  I write with 25 years experience as a volunteer wildland firefighter in the Mattole River watershed and also as someone else who once, through negligence, set the woods on fire.

I would like to expand on the Journal article by:

Mentioning that state law unequivocally states that he who unleashes fire onto the ground is responsible for all the consequences therefrom;

Acknowledging the existence of human communities to the north, south and east of the point of origin of the fire;

Pointing out that CalFire prioritizes the Lost Coast as an area of the highest vulnerability to catastrophic wildfire based on its vegetation type, topography, remoteness, proximity to human communities, and number of potential ignition sources during the time of highest fire danger;

Offering a standard post-incident accounting of number of structures lost (zero) and  number of firefighter injuries (none);

Admonishing novice and veteran backpackers that, once a fire is beyond their control, their highest priority is to make contact with 911;

And, finally, by imploring Mr. Evans to acknowledge remorse beyond the loss of a Thermarest, to make restitution beyond purchasing a new camp stove, and to express gratitude toward the firefighters who spent a sleepless night pulling his bacon out of the fire.

Peter Marshall, Honeydew

Comments (1)

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Peter, Thank you for writing. Unlike the implication in the headline for your letter, I thought the fire anything but "trivial." For the record (and as you may have read in my article), our priority was indeed to get the word out to the authorities. Fortunately for all concerned, you guys knew about it 14 hours before I ran into the Petrolia store the next morning. As far as restitution was concerned, the State accepted $100,000 from our insurers. The article itself was intended as a kind of restitution, too, written as a cautionary tale. I've been particularly gratified hearing from several people how they intend to be more careful with fires in the future. What I wasn't expecting was the number of "I've used one of these stoves for years, and I've never had a problem" comments. (That was me, before the fireball!) Louisa's and my gratitude is unbounded to you all who fought the fire over that 36 hour period. Thank you.

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Posted by barry on 03/08/2013 at 8:00 AM
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