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24 May 2015 - Please, Be Careful and Considerate

For the past several decades on the Memorial Day weekend I have spent time issuing warnings to city folks and farmers using rural roads and highways.

If you are a city driver traveling on unfamiliar roads, slow down and enjoy the scenery because you never know when you will encounter slow-moving farm equipment over the next hill or around the next corner that will require you to slow down quickly to avoid an accident.

To my farmer friends who are on those rural roads with tractors, planters and tillage equipment, make sure all of your safety equipment is working. And I know you have a legal right to be on that roadway, but when you have the opportunity, pull off to the side to let that line of vehicles that has formed behind you get around you. With a little bit of courtesy you could prevent accidents and save lives.

But this year, looking beyond Memorial Day and into the summer, I want to issue another warning. I want to urge all of you to be careful this summer when you are camping or visiting forest lands across the United States. Be careful with camp fires, cigarettes, matches and other flammable materials to make sure you are not responsible for starting a forest fire.

The reason I bring this up is because Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell presented the Forest Service forecast for the upcoming 2015 fire season in testimony before a Senate committee this week . He said the fire danger would be very high in the northern and western regions of the country this year. Since I have always wondered about the cost of fighting these fires, I found these words interesting “ . . . there is a 90% chance that this year’s Forest Service fire suppression costs will be between $794-million and $1.657-billion dollars with a median estimate of $1.250-billion to fight forest fires”. Among other things those dollars will be used to employ 10,000 firefighters and lease nearly 100 airplanes ranging from helicopters to air tankers.

Many of the fires are started by Mother Nature with lightning strikes, but way too many of them are started by human beings through carelessness, negligence, and unfortunately, arson. So, please, save our forests, as well as lives, homes and our taxpayer dollars by being very careful when you visit our forest lands. And follow the words of Smokey Bear...Only YOU can prevent forest fires!

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