Gambling just once may pay off with big problems


The advent of fall brings us a treat in the beauty of the San Luis Valley, but there’s a dark side.
A man seeking to live “off the grid” in the mountains near Fort Garland has been bound over for trial on 141 counts of arson, with possibly more to come.
The debate between prosecution and defense attorneys was not whether he did it, but when something one does deliberately becomes an accident that expands far beyond the initial incident.
There is no question the man started a fire either to cook meat or burn trash and did little to prevent the spread of the fire. It was spring, going into summer, hot and dry, and authorities had issued orders that no open burning would be allowed.
Few of us would drop a match in a tinderbox and the man really didn’t do that. He gambled that what he has always done without damage could be done again.
There was water, though it was hauled in and he could have doused the cooking fire as soon as he ate the meat. He didn’t.
There was some evidence that he may have attempted to kill the flames around the burn barrel before they got away, but he claimed he slept a while before awakening to smell smoke.
He suffered significant burns and explained he was trying to put the fire out after it had already begun to spread.
Trying and failing, he went to a nearby reservoir and watched flames devour the forest. He has yet to speak publicly about the situation.
Can such an event happen today?
The mountains are teeming with hunters as big game abounds and we can hope they take care of their fires.
Moisture has brought sheriffs to remove burning bans, but that doesn’t mean all is completely safe.
Will someone’s S’more turn into a whole lot more?
Even as I write this, wildfires are still burning not only in Colorado, but also in California and other states with heavily wooded areas.
People are still burning trash in burn barrels, they are still hauling in water to live off the grid and the domestic water supply is becoming more and more scarce.
The rivers are low and we are praying for snow, but are we also aware of what may happen if the drought continues through the winter?
When I was young, my mother, a product of the Great Depression, would warn, “waste not, want not.” She wasn’t kidding.
Conservation and protecting the environment is not just Granny’s pipe dream, it’s a reality.
What any one of us does today, gambling that nothing will go wrong, might “accidentally” harm us all.

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