August 7, 2007

You know it’s fire weather when you are awakened before 8 am by the fire pager for a brush and timber fire. Fortunately, it was quickly brought under control, but the concern is to make sure it is dead out before afternoon. The wind is steady with squirrelly gusts this morning, and I spent an hour setting out sprinklers and making sure the outside of the house was ready in case of a field fire. The fields upwind have not been harvested, and a wind driven fire moves fast in standing grain. I know our fire crew is ready (my keys and boots are by the door!), I know our farmers have their disks ready to plow fire lines if need be, the ag chem companies have water tanks to lend, and I know the harvest crews will try to be careful. All this made me think back to a conversation I had with Duane Vaagen last week. We were talking about how crews harvesting logs get kicked out of the woods when the fire danger is high (hoot owl restrictions). Doesn’t really make sense, the crews have the equipment and training to suppress a fire if one should start from any source. They could actually be used as a valuable asset, already staged and ready to respond while DNR gets crews on the road.

Nobody would even suggest that grain harvest or hay baling should stop when it gets hot and dry, that’s exactly the weather you need to get a good harvest! We get through harvest every year with wonderful cooperation from the community to use all of our resources, public and private, in a logical way. It’s time for DNR to take another look at how to incorporate private resources and find ways to allow work to continue in the woods just like farmers keep working in the fields.