Loss of life and of loved ones is the greatest tragedy.
Of significant impact as well is the harm to our land and environment, and most certainly to Mother Earth’s other living creatures — our precious wildlife — whose homes are the very forests that are ransacked by these murderously uncontrolled blazes.
Sadly, most wildfires are the product of those who should know better — people.
Lack of forethought.
Undue respect for life, property and how our every action affects those around us.
Certainly the origin of most wildfires is accidental. Yet when they are caused by unthinking, uncaring or unrealistic people, it affects us all. And frankly, it angers us.
News of a woods fire last Friday afternoon near the Bradley and Hamilton County line reinforces the mandate for this reminder — most forest fires are started by the careless actions of people. Not all, but most. Last week’s blaze destroyed an estimated three to four acres of land. Thankfully, no injuries were reported and no homes stood in the path of this inferno.
The chaos backed up traffic along Interstate 75 South for hours. Reports tell us the winding trail of stranded motorists stretched beyond 10 miles.
Four units from Bradley County Fire Rescue and 20 firefighting personnel, with support from the Hamilton County Tri-Community Fire Department, responded to the scene. The Tennessee Division of Forestry dispatched plows to help contain the raging menace.
We thank each of these public servants for their roles in containing this blaze whose potential for devastation was paramount in the minds and hearts of anyone whose life, livelihood and property could have been impacted. We shudder to even consider the fire’s impact on area wildlife and the natural vegetation that lay in smoldering ruins.
The cause of the blaze continues to be investigated.
We have no evidence to support our layman suspicion, but upon considering the factors it is not unreasonable to believe this wildfire too was caused by human negligence.
Consider these points about the blazing monster.
It occurred near a major, heavily traveled roadway.
Drought conditions, in spite of this week’s badly needed rains, continue to plague the Southeast Tennessee terrain, and this most certainly includes our Cleveland and Bradley County homeland.
It is the autumn season. Dry leaves are falling to the ground and collecting in piles, thus becoming an incendiary agent awaiting opportunity.
A live cigarette butt tossed recklessly to the shoulder of the road by a passing motorist is certainly a prime suspect. Who among us hasn’t witnessed this act by the driver in front of us? Our city streets, medians and concrete islands are proof of this thoughtless act.
Of course, the origin of last week’s fire could be linked to other causes.
An unattended campfire whose embers remained live and lethal.
Controlled burning whose flames spread unexpectedly from an afternoon wind.
Unthinking hunters failing to thoroughly extinguish a cigarette, cigar or pipe tobacco.
Even more threateningly ... arson.
Wildfires have multiple causes. Most are preventable — especially those caused by careless human behavior.
Whatever the cause of last week’s fire, it is an appropriate reminder of the effect our actions have on our surroundings — especially our precious forests.
And Mother Earth’s life that dwells within them.