July 24, 2012
Forest fires have recently been scorching the United States with unusual reach and rage. Infernos in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming, have made news in our state.
Behind the headlines of the lightning-ignited 150-square-mile devastation near Fort Collins, Colorado is the analysis of forestry and conservation experts that it has been the absence of small fires that has helped to fuel the large fire. Turns out that Smokey the Bear’s campaign to prevent forest fires may be partly at fault.
In most of life, little problems here and there help to avoid larger problems later. The little fires consume the fuel that would feed a catastrophic conflagration exploding out of pent-up fears or frustrations or long-festering problems.
Even those who work in the “prevention business” – whether that’s the US Forest Service or a statewide athletic association – must tolerate a few fires. They can have positive, productive effects, one of which is to keep small problems from growing large and more destructive.