Fishing in the Dark
Posted: Friday, Jul 27th, 2012
In this week’s e-mail, I received a note from the Town of Guernsey regarding a letter they had received from someone who was very pleased with the way things have been handled at the pool this year. Although it was not submitted as a true Letter to the Editor, it was forwarded it to me and I think it’s worth sharing just to show that we do have some great employees working on our behalf and they deserve credit for the job they’re doing. The following was received from David Lycan, a Deputy Commander from the USAF.
“As a member of the community and avid pool user, I just wanted to let the town council know that the swimming pool management and staff this year have been doing an exceptional job. I use the pool five to six days per week since the grand opening and this is the best I have seen the pool in regards to staff being on time for opening and cleanliness of the facility. My wife and I have also taken our grandchildren swimming on numerous occasions and have witnessed a very dedicated pool staff that keeps the locker rooms and pool clean and safe. We also had a private party for our family and some friends and again had exceptional service at a quality price. Hats off to the pool staff for the “outstanding” job they are doing and to the town for making this project happen. Having a facility like this makes the hot summer easier to handle. See you at the poooooool.”
Often the items we hear most about have a negative story line so it’s nice to see something like this and have people acknowledge the things that are being done properly.
I wish all the news this week was as upbeat as the previous piece is.
Elsewhere in this paper, you will see that the National Guard is hosting an Open House and Town Hall Meeting for the community. In light of the fire situation on the north range and the private property that has been affected by the fire, the invitation might seem a bit untimely so I think it’s important people know this event was planned well before the fire happened.
They are planning on showing the public various areas of the camp, followed by a free cook-out meal and then wrapping up the event with a question/answer session with MG Luke Reiner, Wyoming State Adjutant General. Although the invitation doesn’t mention the fire specifically, I was told by the official spokeswoman for the Guard that the fire would be addressed in that meeting and that any questions the public may have can certainly be asked at that meeting.
Six years ago, we had a similar situation when a tracer round that was fired on the north range ended up triggering a fire that eventually burned over 10,000 acres of Guard and privately owned land. At that time, Platte County was one of a number of counties that was under a ban for any type of fires and that included even recreational use at the state parks. Following that fire, the Guard held a meeting in Guernsey to explain what happened and answer questions from the public. With the loss of pasture grass burned in addition to some historic buildings and huge stretches of fencing, the Tracer Fire was a very sore subject for many local ranchers.
While the fire was certainly not planned, the Guard explained that training for units during a time of war is critical and although measures are taken to mitigate the likelihood of a fire, the bottom line seemed to be that training had to take priority.
At that time, I supported (for the most part) the Guard’s need for training as we were losing soldiers daily to IED attacks in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I didn’t feel it fair to send soldiers into places like that with inadequate training so despite the fact that I felt horrible about what had happened, I did understand the reason behind taking the risk. We were assured by the Guard at that meeting that the likelihood of that fire was extremely small and that it had been “a fluke thing” and “likely wouldn’t happen again in 100 years.”
But six years later, here we are. For me though, it is a different situation and I am angry that my neighbors and my friends don’t count for more when it comes to the Guard’s willingness to take risks like this. We are no longer in the height of conflict. And even if we were, we are also in the worst drought situation I’ve seen in the 25-plus years I’ve lived here. The fire danger is EXTREME and there’s no question about that. Colorado and Wyoming have both seen the worst fires in their state’s histories. Most communities scratched their fireworks shows for the 4th this year. If asked, I’d be willing to bet most kids kindergarten age could tell you how high the fire danger is because it’s been that heavily discussed by everyone this year. The Guard will tell us that they have a team that assesses the fire danger for every training mission. But to me and most of the people I’ve talked to--this is an easy call. While it’s true that the military is exempt from burning bans, why would anyone be willing to take the chance this year, given the circumstances? If the Guard was the only entity at risk for losing should a fire occur, then shoot all they want. But these decisions affect hundreds of other people and their very livelihoods. The stress put on these ranchers, their livestock and the already stretched services of our volunteer fire fighters should be a top consideration. The Guard’s insistence on continuing this type of training when the risk is this high is nothing short of arrogant and irresponsible. Just because they “can” doesn’t mean they “should.”
All the apologies in the world don’t fix this problem. Even payment for claims after the fact don’t begin to undo the damage that’s done when it happens.
The Guard continually tells us they want to be good neighbors and have a great relationship with us. If you really mean it, then show us. Show us by using common sense when it comes to taking risks that jeopardize far more than your impact area or your land and assets. If we really matter, then treat us like we do.
I would urge everyone to take time to attend this meeting and make your own feelings known. It’s time to make the wheels squeak.