Everyone can help prevent wildfires

Guest opinion by Dale Nova

August 25th infamously marks the 80th anniversary of Ranger John Everitt’s death, killed on Mt. Shasta at age 50 by the Bear Springs Wildfire in 1934. Top-ranking ranger in charge of the Shasta National Forest, he was by himself, scouting out the wildfire for the safety of his few firefighters working below.

The US was deeply sunk in the middle of the Great Depression and the Forest Service was barely floating, not yet buoyed up by FDR’s great program, the Civilian Conservation Corps, just implemented a year earlier.

Here in the timber-based economy of Siskiyou County, we are now very similarly in a depression. Our California Conservation Corps, our 21st century California version of the ’30s 3-Cs, has now been reduced to a single crew in Siskiyou County.

Deep financial woes have impacted USFS fire and fuels management budgets, CAL FIRE, and our county’s volunteer fire departments – the backbone of Siskiyou’s firefighting and medical first responders.

VFDs are struggling bravely, while desperately striving to recruit new volunteers. With our county’s present economy, volunteerism has dropped hard, affecting virtually all organizations.

The premise is that if we have wildfires, the government will put them out. That is simply NOT TRUE. We, the people are the government. Unfortunately, too many wildfires are simply unstoppable. Only God and weather are what often turns a destructive wildfire on its back. Mark this present wildfire season in Siskiyou County with exclamation marks to this statement.

To date, at least 22 firefighters have lost their lives over the years fighting wildfires on the Klamath National Forest. The Shasta and Trinity National Forests has claimed nearly as many each. What do these numbers mean?

To people who care, and here’s hoping we all do, not one single firefighter should ever lose his or her life trying to save someone’s home or property. No amount of money will compensate for a human life. Only YOU can make a difference in saving lives.

We are entering absolutely the most critical weeks of an already devastating fire season in our region. Using the best fire safety measures in our spheres of influence is tremendously important.

Preparing your home and property for good defensible space can not only give firefighters a fighting chance but also can save lives in your household and neighborhood.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! There’s no rain that’s forecast in the near future. Help your family, your neighbors, your community. VOLUNTEER! Even one hour a week is great.

If lots of hands, each doing just a little join in a great common cause – creating fire safe communities – a lot of good will get done.

Not everyone can run a chainsaw, feed a chipper, or write a successful grant proposal. But can you file, pile limbs, dial friends, run a calculator, invest some dollars for a worthy cause like helping a disabled senior citizen have a workgroup perform defensible space around her home.

Don’t wait. Call your local fire safe council today. Find your local fire safe council at:

Contact your local volunteer fire department today. You may not be firefighter material but ask what you can do, contribute, and find out what their needs are.

We can all make a huge difference. No matter how small you think your efforts are, you are very, very, important for creating a firewise, fire-resilient community.

-- Dale Nova volunteers as co-facilitator to the Mount Shasta Area Fire Safe Council, is an urban forester, and safety consultant. You can find him at: