NOTE: It is interesting that of all posts (many positive or informative) on the Clearwater Complex this has drawn the largest audience, evidently being linked all over Facebook. This is one post please read the others before drawing conclusions. Please see this additional post for more information.
A local resident reflects the current sentiment that unfortunately is not only finding a strong foothold among land owners, home owners, and residents, but is solidiying into what may appear to be a somewhat valid negative perspective of the techniques, methods, and tortuously complicated and often inexplicable actions by the inter agency firefighters. Many locals are fighting fires while firefighters standby and monitor blazes.
This is not our first rodeo with forest fires – I have lived here all my life and have seen MANY fires and watched them being fought and handled. This is the extreme of beaurocratic tangleweeds in fighting fires that anyone has ever seen!
I have tried to ride the fence because I know that many, many, many “boots on the ground” have given it their all and then some. I have went and talked with men and woman from many an agency in nearly every capacity and asked very similar questions. I get it that everyone has “their place” or “their job”, but just like big government, it gets top heavy after a while and all the strength goes to carrying the head around and not actually doing what they were established to do…FIGHT FIRES! One report circulating is that a man pulled a weapon and told the US Forest Service that if they “didnt get down there and fight that fire they are watching that he [and others] would take over their equipment and fight it for themselves.” This is not a healthly exchange, not endorsed by homeowners, and could be extremely counterproductive, but it is a symptom of what locals are experiencing when it comes to a feeling of fear, helplessness, and complete frustration with, what they feel was misplaced trust in the firefighters.
This is what is boils down to: We are very thankful for helicopters, planes, and such, but these firefighters are getting huge amounts of “hazard pay” and you won’t have to look far to see many pictures online of them “watching” or “monitoring” fires. I have held off commenting on the public sentiment for a long time, but it is there, it is real, and it is universal. I have not talked with one resident anywhere that feels like the firefighters have done a stellar job dealing with this fire from the beginning…not one. The only positive feedback from anyone is about the Navajo Hotshots, who are not afraid to go in and tackle the beast. Again, my hat is off to them…the rest may need to turn in their yellow shirts or turn them over to locals who are willing to put the fire retardent clothing to the test. I personally applaud the efforts of the Glenwood/Caribel Fire District. They are a small local district that operates on a shoe-string budget, old equipment, and surplus supplies doing a fantastic job at tackling a world-class blaze. They have given it all they had and then some. I have been to the fire house and saw them laying exhausted on the floors or cots trying to catch a few hours of sleep. I know many of them personally and see the weariness in their face.
This post is not about bashing firefighters-we are glad they are here, but I feel the time is ripe to let the remaining public know the sentiment that may cement into a very negative outcome toward some agencies. That wouldn’t benefit anyone. The public and locals are aware that they get funding for the following year from the Federal government based on the acreage burned, man count and days on the fire. Unfortunately, the incentive is definitely present to prolong the incident or to be apathetic toward the the locals’ concerns, at the end of the day this fire may very well translate into millions of dollars of addtitional budgeting for next year. I make no accusations, only state what I have both seen and heard. I hope there are some positive actions and outcomes that can entirely reverse these sentiments.