2 May 2008, 9:41am
Federal forest policy The 2008 Fire Season
by admin

Three Charged in X Fire

Three campers left their campfire unattended, and it erupted into a forest fire. The campers have been charged with Federal crimes and face jail, probation, fines, and restitution penalties.

The X Fire is burning on Tusayan Ranger District the near the southern rim of the Grand Canyon. It began April 29th and has consumed about 2,050 acres. The fire has been largely contained by Hot Shot crews and fire personnel of the Kaibab National Forest.

The three campers were apprehended without incident and have cooperated with authorities.

From the Arizona Republic in Flagstaff [here]:

Authorities track down trio suspected in X Fire

by Lindsey Collom - The Arizona Republic

When an unattended campfire touched off a 2,000-acre blaze just outside of Grand Canyon National Park Tuesday, it didn’t take long or much effort for authorities to track down the people believed to be responsible.

A trio of campers, visiting from Texas, returned the next day to the site in the Kaibab National Forest to retrieve a sleeping bag, court records show.

The three cooperated with authorities and, after being questioned, were summoned to appear in federal court in Flagstaff Thursday - even as fire crews continued to rein in the X Fire by dousing hotspots with water, digging at smoldering dumps and aerating the soil. …

The X Fire suspects could face a maximum penalty of six months in jail, five years’ probation and a $5,000 fine. A judge could also force them to pay what it cost to fight the fire. Murphy estimated the fire suppression tab to be $250,000 by Thursday morning.

Interestingly, the Kaibab NF spokesperson claimed that the X Fire has benefited the forest:

Meanwhile, Murphy says the forest is benefiting from the blaze, which has burned overgrowth and ground fuels while mostly sparing trees. Fire also releases nitrogen into the soil, promoting new growth.

“It’ll be nice again,” he said.

Also interesting is the fact that in 2006 Kaibab NF personnel burned 58,000 acres of that national forest in the Warm Fire, a whoofoo (Wildland Fire Use fire) that consumed 40,000 acres of old-growth ponderosa pine and Mexican spotted owl habitat. The Warm Fire was a deliberate act on the part of Kaibab NF personnel, and in direct violation of a Court Order and Record of Decision that prohibited such burning [see here for more about the Warm Fire].

Yet, in the case of the Warm Fire, no Kaibab NF personnel were charged with Federal crimes, jailed, put on probation, fined, or forced to pay restitution. The Warm Fire rang up a bill of over $7 million in suppression costs, ten times that in resource losses, and more $millions in subsequent forest rehabilitation expenses. That work has only begun, following a year of planning which also cost a pretty penny.

No one claimed that the stand replacing (total tree mortality) Warm Fire “benefited” the forest. Yet the perps went unpunished and are still collecting Federal paychecks.

All that is not an excuse or defense for the three campers who unwittingly started the X Fire. But whatever punishment the judge and jury apply to those three, something in excess of a hundred times more severe punishments should have been meted out to the Kaibab NF personnel responsible for the Warm Fire.

2 May 2008, 12:58pm
by Wayne K.

Restitution? Wait just a second here. According to the official representative of the “crime victim” this fire improved the forest. I’m guessing the value of that improvement far, far exceeded the cost of fire suppression, right? Otherwise, the entire “let it burn” federal policy doesn’t make much sense, does it? If a fire caused by campfire carelessness resulted in a resource benefit, then this is really just a technical law violation. Nothing to get excited about. Why, it’s like someone stealing a starving, neglected horse from the corral and taking it home to save its life. Indeed, these “careless campers” are probably heroes. And if this fire was a benefit to the forest, then a larger fire would be a greater benefit, right? The government is the real culprit here. The federal government, intentionally and with malice aforethought, extinguished a wholly beneficial fire and now want the heroes who started this fire to reimburse them for the expense of a suppression effort that was misguided and unnecessary by their own admission. I could go on and on. And I have.

2 May 2008, 1:33pm
by Bob Z.

I agree with Wayne K. and believe these heroes should be rewarded for their efforts, no matter how unwitting.

On the other hand, federal officials who made the hasty decision to waste taxpayer money by needlessly extinguishing the forest restorative blaze should be held accountable for their rash actions.

Talk about stupidity! It is the fire-fighting feds that should be facing jail time and reimbursing the treasury — certainly not the heroes who did us all such a favor and with no thought of reward!

2 May 2008, 4:16pm
by Mike

Now, now, gentlemen. Your cynical satire might be misinterpreted by some ninny who thinks Smokey Bear should be shot dead and the camper’s job is to incinerate Mother Nature because she wants it so bad, and will then and thusly leave his/her campfire unattended for all the “benefits,” which you gentlemen derided with too much subtlety in my opinion, and thus some precious forest will burn down and the homes near to it, too.

All because you were too subtle in your wit for the witless segment of the population. Try to speak plainlier.

2 May 2008, 7:15pm
by bear bait

It is out of the USFS hands, now. The Special Forces have rounded up the culprits, and handed them off to the US Attorney. It is a lawyerly thing now. The lawyers will settle it all, and the ninny who said the forest has benefited will find his time in depositions and in court just a barrel of laughs.

Morass, Maelstrom, Tar Pit, Rodeo, whatever. No matter what you call it, the USFS is in so deep and up so far that paddles have been of no help for two decades. They are in a deal that they don’t have the smarts to deal with, or the time to deal with it. They used to manage the forests for the people, then the people managed the forests for what the people thought a forest would want, and now the forests are managing themselves, mostly an act of benign genocide by fire.

I found the Wyden compromise to have some logging in the Egley Fire over by Burns, OR, and another near John Day to be an eye opener. The enviro spokesperson said they really didn’t want any salvage of any fire, but they need the mills to be there when they start producing forest health fiber and logs. We need viable sawmills to make co-generation energy, and we need sawmills to take logs from the thinnings to rid the forests of extra fuel. So where is the hare lip from Ashland on this deal? The mugging of a burn victim is about to take place. They are going to steal the integrity of a fire ravaged forest to keep a capitalist sawmill running. Makes no sense to me. I guess they are running out of mink farms to liberate.



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