Damned if you do, damned if you don't. It is easy to blame the Forest Service in this part of the world since these public lands are the backyard of rural communities ("Lessons in the Ashes," Aug. 8).
Certainly, fire suppression, past clearcutting, and a subsequent backlog of dense stands have resulted in a precarious situation relative to wildfire. Yet to state that the Forest Service has located fuel breaks in areas to favor logging profits is ill-informed.
Ridge position fuel breaks, via thinning of trees and shrubs, aim to reduce the fuel source for lightning strikes from carrying into communities like Orleans. Fuel breaks also let fire do the work it was meant to do on the other side of the break — create stand structural diversity, stimulate seed germination ... .
No mention was made in the article that people continue to develop deeper into the woods and they still expect the Forest Service to protect their properties. While there are those that create "defensible" spaces around properties (good for you), there are plenty that do not. Note: the fire started inside the community near Highway 96, not as a wildfire on Forest Service land.
While past practices of the Forest Service have not always considered the whole of the forest, I tire of those that keep the Forest Service locked in the past. I work for the agency and have seen the change. Take the comment about tractor logging and its "serious soil damage" (no relationship to the topic of fuel breaks). "Best management practices" — that aim to reduce impacts to soil resources — have been in place for at least two decades.
The article seemed a forum for bashing the Forest Service. The bashing was not accurate; it was just easy.
Unfortunately, the very complicated situation of managing (and using) wildfire in a very topographically complicated landscape and where people have built homes, was not fairly represented in this article.
Lisa D. Hoover, Blue Lake