The psychology of the wildland firefighter, unlike his or her cousin the city firefighter, has a tragic side. In the city, where the city firefighter operates, there are strict building codes that ensure that fire hazards do not accumulate and that structures are made fire proof or fire resistant. Not so for the wildland firefighter, who operates within a light fire ecosystem that is not maintained properly with light fire or where public and private landowners are held responsible for fire hazard buildups on their properties.
While many wildland firefighters may appreciate my book Fire in Nature, A Fire Activist's guide they might not appreciate as much my just released book called Enlightenment: The Long Hard Road. However, they should because in the book I discuss how all life is gathering, processing and recording information upon which to make decisions that either harm the organism or help the organism. If the organism makes a mistake it can suffer or even die and if it makes good decisions it can be happy and prosper. So in other words life is a school, a stage upon which all life acts. Shakespeare was right when he said, "all life is a stage and we but actors on it."
Evolution is driven by a simple reward-punishment scheme that forces life to evolve, to either adapt and learn or not learn and suffer, or even perish if its dictates are ignored. If we carefully observe ourselves and nature we see that hard lessons are repeated over and over in increasing frequency and intensity, until the suffering gets so bad that the organism gets it, or the organism dies and is replaced by other organisms that do get it.
As I write this article in the Western United States we can see both heroism and tragedy being played out. The wildland firefighter is right in the thick of things playing out his or her heroic and tragic roles. His or her role is heroic in the saving or trying to save lives, property and ecosystems from catastrophic fire. Yet, at the same time, tragic, because the better he or she gets at the work, the more catastrophic fire hazards accumulate in light fire ecosystems. The debris buildup from fire suppression is devastating and suffocating to light fire ecosystems filling them with debris and disease making them vulnerable to unnatural man caused catastrophic fire.
The tragedy of the wildland firefighter, the public and nature, will not end until the public, public officials and firefighters, understand that fire exclusion and fire suppression in light fire ecosystems is a mistake, an error. It's so very clear to us with eyes to see, but so unclear to those blinded by fear of fire, that lessons being presented if not learned will only repeat in increasing frequency and intensity. This exactly what fire is doing and no amount of denial and trauma is going to change the equation until suffering drives the firefighter and the public onto the right path, that of true knowledge and understanding.
The understanding is that fire hazard reduction and regulation must be immediately and thoroughly implemented by public and private property owners in light fire ecosystems. Landowners have to take personal responsibility, or by regulation, to simulate natural fires through prescribed burning and other means to sweep the land clean of debris buildup. In addition the land in the yards surrounding homes must be regulated to keep fire hazards low just as in the home itself.
Of course landowners should have the right to their own property. But if the debris buildup on their property and costs associated with lack of responsibility on their property, endanger the public purse and other landowners and homeowners then it's the government's responsibility to protect through regulation. Exercise of one's Landowner rights cannot be an excuse for one person to infringe on the right of another.
I am building a Facebook group called the Association of Fire Management Activists that all are free to join. I also have written the book Fire In Nature, A Fire Activists Guide that is free to read on its website. It is one of three books that I have written on diverse topics so that others can build upon my knowledge, just as I have built my life on the good works and knowledge of others before me.