Monday, August 29, 2011

One Hot Situation

We have experienced an onslaught of range fires in my part of Wyoming over the last week. So many fires were blazing at once that our county's resources couldn't keep up with them. So, the fire district made the decision to call in paid resources (not our local paid people that were helping all they could), and relinquish control of the fires to the state of Wyoming.

The result was a disastrous loss of grass, endangerment of people, and frustration to local landowners.

See that guy in the picture? See him watching the Niobrara County guys and local ranchers do all the cleanup work? He was parked in that very spot when the fire was being put out also. His pickup had a sticker on the door that said, "Wyoming Forestry," and he was getting paid to stand there, watching a rancher's land burn up before him, offering no assistance when his very job was to help extinguish the flames.

That was a much too common sight over the last week. We learned today that these paid resources make at or above $28/hour, and their pickups are paid between $60 and $170 an hour. Why would they want the fire to go out?

We heard there were over 200 of them swarming around our county. How much money is that over a three-day period?!!?

It became apparent early on in when they entered our county that they had no intention of extinguishing any flames very fast. No, that burning grass was making them a nice, fat paycheck. They would park in the black and sleep and drive along fire-lines and watch the fire creep over it without even stopping. They would watch local ranchers and fire fighters almost burn up and not even bat an eye, let alone help. They would refuse to share water, and ask everyone to give theirs up to them.

Then they get to leave, collect that nice, fat paycheck, and move on to encourage the destruction of someone else livelihood. Meanwhile, the people left in their wake are faced with a financial crisis. Their grass is gone, fences gone, and they aren't getting a paycheck to fix it. They have to live with, and correct, this disaster brought on by human mismanagement.

This is wrong, and infuriating. Getting rich off the destruction of someone else's livelihood, when you were specifically hired to stop the destruction, is sick and wrong.

I personally witnessed numerous incidents that left me speechless over the last few days in regard to these paid resources. Their absolute negligence in doing their job was astounding, and resulted in losses that might even outweigh their paychecks.

When you're sitting in the dark, watching your next door neighbor's land burn up in flames that are 6-8 feet tall, and you see headlights on the next ridge, you assume that person will be there to stop the fire in that direction. What we've all learned in Niobrara County this week is you better radio and see if it's someone you know, and if it's not, you better assume he's going to do everything he can to fan the flames instead of extinguish them, regardless of the resulting loss in grass, homes, life or anything else.

When you call in additional resources, it's because you truly need them, not because you want to make the situation worse. Those that did aid in the efforts were truly appreciated, but they were far and few between.
What is our country coming to?


  1. You are so right, Heather. Any time a situation can be handled locally, it is best to do that. We even had Homeland "Security" in here, which was so unnecessary. They will brand us all "domestic terrorists," I'm sure, so get ready to be villified for posting this. My fear is they will set up camp and never leave!

  2. What a disgusting bummer and waste of money and resources. So sorry you had to endure that!

  3. We had the same problem around here, in Powder River and Rosebud counties of Montana. The Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation had a fire start. They only had two crews to fight the flame and soon enough the fire was completely out of control. Then the forest service was supposed to be putting the flames out, because it had gotten on the the national forest. The forest service was also completely unqualified to do so because they had just sent almost all of their crews to New Mexico, I believe, to fight fires there. All the while, citizens and volunteer firefighters had been fighting the fire. Eventually the State of Montana took over and the fires were put out, weeks after everything had started. There were over 40,000 acres burned. The livelihood of several ranching families was put in danger because the counties, reservation, and forest service did not have the resources to stop the fires. I can say, at least there weren't any people being paid to fight the fire that were just standing around...