Avis Gray: It’s time for a fire ban

To the Editor:

We had a wildfire “dress rehearsal” here Saturday, May 26, near County Road 4 on the valley floor.

The fire spread 100 feet in seconds and its initial flames were wicked high. Luckily, this accidentally man-made one was smothered by our noble firefighters and a well-placed beaver dam.

If the high winds had shifted a bit, however, and it had engulfed the nearby felled piles of slash and trees, this would have become a “premier” performance.

Let’s wake up: It’s time for prevention AND a precautionary fire ban, even if we don’t score a perfect 10 on the five points for determining a ban. In talking with other fire chiefs in surrounding areas who have issued bans in the name of safety and serving the common good, they have implied that our county is indeed “playing with fire” in their eyes.

Let’s cut to the chase. For the past few months, and again yesterday at the fire scene, I have heard rumblings that a ban hurts tourism, that it is an inconvenience to campers and sports people. Having hiked a good portion of the Appalachian Trail, I do know that true lovers of the wilderness respect safety more than campfires.. A fire ban will not deter avid sports people from carefully exploring our woods. They will respect our caution, which in turn reassures them that they might not be trapped in our one-way access and egress points and congested emergency fire exits . And for those who must have an open fire for convenience, let them instead discover our fine array of hotels, motels, and restaurants.

That, indeed will HELP tourism and might even boost our lagging economy.

The potential for raging fires does not promote tourism in any area. This I can speak from experience. My son, a young teacher up in Steamboat, had an all-consuming fire in his school-provided log cabin while he was taking students to a basketball game. Within 10 minutes, all that he possessed was consumed – including his master’s thesis, his backup to his thesis, his young dog and our visiting family dog. Steamboat has left this charred structure still standing as an ode to prevention and caution.

Tourism will be better off here if our visitors know we put our safety and theirs ahead of grabbing the almighty buck at our mutual potential peril.

Please, county commissioners and Sheriff Johnson, think and act progressively NOW.

Avis Gray

Grand Lake

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