“PORTLAND, OR 2003-08-20 (Oregon Considered) - More firefighters are on their way to two fast-growing blazes in Central Oregon. The fires may force
President Bush to change his plans tomorrow. Bush is scheduled to visit Camp Sherman, near Sisters, and tour a forest there.
The fires also got members of one environmental group thinking that they happened at a very convenient time. They worry the blazes will underscore the
President's argument that more logging is needed to reduce the risk of wildfire in federal forests.
Fire officials say both the Booth and Bear Butte fires are located in forests with a lot of dead trees and brush that are fueling the blazes. It's
forests just like that where President Bush wants to increase logging and thinning.
Joe Keating with the Oregon Wildlife Federation says it's suspicious the fires started now officials say it's been two weeks since lightning moved
through the area. The Forest Service is investigating the cause of the fires.
But at an anti-Bush rally organized by environmentalists in downtown Portland, Keating called for an independent investigation of the fires.
Joe Keating: You know the Forest Service and I'm sure they would do a good investigation but it's important in this particular case, because of the
sensitivity, to have an independent situation take place. And so what we're asking is for the FBI who has an arsonist team to investigate the fire
but also to have a coordinated communication with the governor's office here to make sure of the independence of that investigation.”
I travel frequently between the Willamette Valley and the Bend area. With Highway 20 closed and probably for the next week, it took a 3-hour detour
today. Which actually gave me time to get the scoop on the airwaves. There has been some outspoken speculation in Bend that these fires look like the
work of arson. From letters to the editor, radio hosts and the press outside of Bend, people are raising an eyebrow.
The situation is actually ironic, regardless of Bush’s complicity. The Forest Service has been doing exactly what Bush wants to do in this area. The
forest official in this article is misleading the public. They do massive ground sweeps of fuel on the forest floor, thin out dead trees and then in
the middle of the winter torch the piles of fuel. It’s actually quite beautiful on a snowy day to drive by and see small fires burning in the forest.
Gives you that Ewok Tree Village feeling.
But the article says otherwise. I personally see a strange coincidence in forest fires starting prior to Bush’s visit, in an area that is already at
its highest precaution level, has serious restrictions in place and hasn’t seen lightning in two weeks . A fresh forest fire is the perfect backdrop
for a campaign trip to tout the President’s forest policy.
You make your own conclusions.