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Wilderness fires

Published September 2, 2009 6:00 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

I would like to point out an inaccuracy stated by Gov. Gary Herbert in the story "Guv criticizes fire policies" ( Tribune , Aug. 31). The governor reportedly said: "With wilderness, our hands are tied behind our backs."

In fact, the Wilderness Act states that "such measures may be taken as may be necessary in the control of fire." This has been true since the act became law in 1964. I know this because I worked on a crew that fought fires throughout the West in designated wilderness areas, using all kinds of machines. For example, we constructed fire lines with chainsaws in the Badger Jordan Wilderness in Oregon in 1981. In 1983, we cut a re-supply helicopter landing pad in the Jarbidge Wilderness on the Idaho/Nevada border. On this same fire we also set up portable pumps in a creek, supplying an extensive hose lay. Then, in 1991, we used chainsaws to do extensive felling of dead trees in the Eagle Cap Wilderness in eastern Oregon.

To put it simply: You can fight fire in wilderness, and you can use the tools of the trade to do so.

Rich Fairbanks Fire program associate The Wilderness Society

Jacksonville, Ore.