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Bend, Oregon, goes crazy on the 4th of July with a fireworks display from the top of Pilot Butte. That’s a 500-foot high cinder cone with a paved road to the top and a couple of walking trails up and around it. On a typical pleasant day, hundreds of people will make it to the top. I am now sitting in my house precisely one kilometer from the top. Here’s my problem: Pilot Butte catches fire every 4th of July. Therefore, the fire department always has a crew there to put it out, but on a dry day like the 4th typically is, the fire gets out of control. Last year a couple of large junipers went up in about five seconds. Those were spectacular pillars of flame. If the firefighters were there, why didn’t they prevent that from happening?

That event reminds me of where I was living in 1991, a nice neighborhood in the Oakland hills. A fire started about four miles away and got out of control. No problem you might say, and that was about seven times further away than my current fire worry, Pilot Butte. The next day the Oakland fire was only three miles away and burning through some very valuable homes, and the next day only two miles away, going strong and the fire department had run out of water, and the next day it was only one mile away and I packed my home computer and other valuable items in my car. That night the fog rolled in from the ocean and everything got damp and the fire went out.

Looking back at city fires, almost everywhere I have lived has had a major fire. The area of San Francisco I lived in for a couple of years went up in smoke in 1906 after the earthquake. My birthplace, Spokane, Washington, had a big city fire several years before I was born. Berkeley, California, where I lived for fifty years, had a huge fire in 1923. I wasn’t there, but some of my friends had experienced that event as children and didn’t recommend it.

The fact that a full-grown ponderosa tree fell on my house two months ago made me more conscious that Mother Nature can be a problem sometimes. I’ve been cleaning up and taking away every possible fire-prone thing from around my house.

Why provoke nature with optional wildfires?

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