Tuesday, August 07, 2012

EDITORIAL >> The fires this time

Two smoking burn barrels were the presumed cause of a grass fire off Gillham Road outside Beebe on Friday afternoon that was extinguished by residents and the El Paso Fire Department.

I became vaguely aware of the fire when I stepped outside after finishing my last story for the day, but the threat didn’t completely register.

When you grow up and live in the country you dispose of leaves, yard debris and paper by burning so the smell of smoke was not alarming.

It wasn’t until 30 minutes later when I heard a tractor outside my office door and found my son filling a 50-gallon barrel with water that I realized we might have a problem.

“This is about self-defense,” he told me as he asked for my dishwashing liquid to make the water wetter.

The fire was contained inside a five-acre field without burning outbuildings or the nearby home of a young man I have known for almost 30 years. And if the truth be told, when I saw my three sons driving back to the fire with a larger tank of water loaded into a Jeep, I could tell they didn’t mind the diversion that took them away from their normal activities for a little while.

But what made me think was how easily I ignored the danger. I finally concluded that people like me are the reason firefighters must be on alert at all times. When you are accustomed to burning, you burn, especially if there has been a small shower like the one in my area that morning.

But small rain showers aside, people need to understand just how dry everything is and refrain from burning. Nearly all of the state is under a burn ban. And regardless of how we country people grew up, it’s simply not safe to carry on as usual. —Joan McCoy