To the Editor:

Now that the Black Crater Fire is nearly contained, it is easy to second-guess the fire fighting strategies and tactics, to grouse about the diversion of aircraft in the early days to Elk Lake, to lament the initial shortage of resources, to doubt the commitment to fight it until it reached a certain size, to question the delay to start back-burning - in short, to complain.

While retrospection can teach valuable lessons, complaining totally misses the point.

Surely we are thankful and pleased that tremendous resources were diverted from other fires to help us when it really counted, just as resources had been diverted from us to others when it really counted for them.

Few of us who would complain have ever faced the challenge, or borne the responsibility, of battling deadly blazes fanned by drying winds, with the threat of major destruction resting on every decision.

I find it immensely reassuring that so many people, nearly 1,000, deserted their homes and families to work continuously for over a week in tough conditions to save the houses and homes of folks they didn't know and will probably never meet.

As an evacuee, I find it truly amazing that our community found places to stay for the residents of nearly 1,000 homes during the evacuation - leaving the Red Cross shelter nearly empty. I especially want to thank the Stengels for giving my family a second home and the Pattersons for giving my two little goats haven from the mayhem. The real point to remember is that a lot of folks did a lot of work for us all and they succeeded.

If I were to draw a lesson from this experience, beyond reaffirming my faith in the goodness of people, it is that we systematically underfund our public efforts to manage wildfires. As others have written, it is easier and cheaper to manage fires when they are small - but we often cannot do this because there aren't sufficient resources to go around. The answer may be to rethink our public priorities - it is more than a little ironic that our government opens its purse to spend billions on destruction abroad, but is so miserly when it comes to being more constructive at home. Fortunately for us all, our neighbors in Sisters do just the opposite.

Chuck Humphreys


To the Editor:

The only way I can think of to combat this tide of catastrophic fires - Cache Mountain, B&B, and now the Black Crater Fire, is for the Forest Service to get out of the firefighting business and to turn protection over to the state or to a state-chartered Forest Protection Association.

The Forest Service has evolved from a field-skilled and physically fit organization into a more intellectual and academic group which is no longer capable or oriented toward firefighting. On the other hand, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and the regional protective associations (for instance Douglas Forest Protective Association) remain competent field organizations with high levels of firefighting skill.

I should note that the B&B Fire and the Black Crater Fire were first seen and turned in by the state tower on Henkle Butte and the Forest Service was, if anything, late getting to them. In previous years, these fires would have been seen earlier, from Forest Service towers or from scout planes and retardant jumpers and ground crews dispatched while they were small and could be easily put out.

Now fires are gotten to late and get very large and do a lot of resource damage before control is achieved. Or, as in the case of the Cache Mountain Fire, the fire has to burn into a subdivision before adequate forces and competency is brought to bear.

The Oregon Department of Forestry is already here in Sisters protecting lands outside the National Forest. In western Oregon, either ODF or a forest protective association protects both private forest and the BLM lands. Each landowner pays a protection fee to the state and no longer has to worry about that activity. Firefighting is efficient and competent.

I think we can do better than what we have seen around here of late and I think we can do it at lower cost. I urge everyone to write to our Governor with copies to all of our congressional delegation to immediately engage in whatever dialog is necessary to develop such a plan in our area.

Phyllis Lewis


To the Editor -

Steve Coltin has it exactly right "… weakness draws aggression." Kuwait and the Shia learned that from Saddam. Saddam learned that from the U.S.A. The Lebanese and Palestinians know that from Israel. But aggression draws blowback: U.S. Marines in 1983 and 9-11 and it is coming again.

Dean Billing


To the Editor:

I want to thank the firefighters for doing an excellent job of keeping the fire from spreading into the rural communities and City of Sisters.

There was some politics between state and federal which prevented the firefighters from containing the fire at 50 acres originally.

I caught the end of a TV station interviewing an environmentalist saying we should have let the fire burn uncontrolled and if any houses or buildings burned up, people should not have built in the woods.

I would like to know if this is the stance all environmentalists believe in or what?

Chet Davis