Democrats have been calling what is happening on our southern border a “manufactured crisis.” Environmentalists have been saying the same thing about the mega-wildfires that have been raging in our national forests recently. The definition of a crisis is “a decisive moment,” or “a time of great danger or great difficulty”. If the word “crisis” doesn’t accurately describe both of these situations, I don’t know what does. In both cases, the situation is the product of a decades-long stalemate.

Nancy Pelosi must certainly believe that what is happening on our Mexican border is a “decisive moment,” because she is risking “great danger” to her political career. So is Alice Carlton, the Forest Supervisor for the Umpqua National Forest.

This danger has become very obvious to many of us here in Douglas County, but has apparently escaped Mrs. Carlton. It is as though the Carr Fire and the Camp Fire never happened. Perhaps Mrs. Carlton believes that these events were simply “manufactured crises” and, like her cohorts in Washington DC., she refuses to acknowledge any “great danger.” There simply is no crisis.

“These are very complicated issues that require more scientific studies to understand” is what she told us when we proposed a system of roadside fuel-breaks in the Tiller District three years ago. Responsible Forest Initiatives told her a crisis was looming for our community, and that we were creating a petition demanding action in the form of a system of roadside fuel-breaks, which would provide safe ingress and egress throughout the district. Over 90 percent of our community signed it. We gave it to our district ranger, Mrs. Carlton, and Regional Forester James Pena — no response. It was the equivalent of asking for a wall on the border.

And it gets worse.

A year or so ago, our group attended a Forest Service meeting in Canyonville initiated to introduce our community to a potential new district ranger. Mrs. Carlton was the main speaker and provided attendees an opportunity to ask questions and offer comments.

Francis Eatherington demanded to know why the Forest Service wasn’t using its prerogative to allow wildfire-starts to become “managed fires” rather than simply extinguishing them. I replied that nearly all the large fires were becoming “managed fires” in that we actually were not going direct anymore, but rather building huge boxes, 30,000 acres or larger at times, with distant roadside fuel-breaks, then lighting these boxes with drip-torches.

We have actually been burning more acres on purpose than what would have burned naturally, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. This is actually what firefighting has become. The fuel-loaded forest is being forced to endure huge prescribed burns during the most dangerous months of the fire season with no oversight from the EPA in regards to the National Environmental Policy Act. Riparian zones are being destroyed, thousands of ancient trees are perishing, topsoil is becoming sterile and forest carbon-storage capacity is being greatly-diminished — all while thousands of tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere and smoke-filled skies seep into our communities, causing health issues for untold thousands.

But Ms. Eatherington wants more, and Mrs. Carlton is determined to appease her.

Last summer, on July 15th, lightning started a large number of fires in the Tiller District, some of which occurred in the Tison Road area, on or near private property. A few of us on the Tiller Volunteer Fire Department responded along with the Douglas Forest Protective Association, who arrived shortly after us with a dozer and an operator. A Forest Service fire crew was also on scene and working together we extinguished all of the tiny fire-starts — except one. The Forest Service crew was handling this fire-start and told the DFPA dozer-operator that they had it under control.

The next day this fire was still hanging around, but once again they told the operator he wasn’t needed. This happened one more time on the third day, and this time the dozer was released and the operator was told to go ahead and leave. Francis Eatherington got what she wanted. This little fire became the Miles Fire, which burned tens of thousands of acres and cost tens of millions of dollars.

The truly alarming aspect of this thing is these fire-starts were surrounded by private property and residencies, but our forest supervisor considered it to be worth the risk. And when you consider the millions of dollars that the Miles Fire generated, perhaps she was right — right? Wrong.

Everything about this narrative is so wrong. The well-being and safety of the folks living in communities like ours has to be given top priority. Public safety should always come first, and it always has, until now. We have tried to work with Mrs. Carlton. Now we are respectfully calling for her resignation.

Todd Vaughn is a long-time resident of Tiller and a member of Responsible Forest Initiatives, a forest-health advocacy group.

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