We find ourselves in uncertain times. Information spreads like wildfire and it can be difficult to ascertain fact from fiction. It seems as though there are many who are living in fear, those who proceed with an attitude of cavalier unbelief, and others who walk the lines between hope and helpfulness.

Regardless of where one stands, a common thread we can all find common ground is, this is truly a historic time. This situation is affecting the populous of the earth in ways never before seen. How each of us chooses to respond will set the course for our future and future generations.

I am a forester and knifemaker. I do not specialize in medicine of any form. I do not have vast knowledge of epidemiology. I am an expert in my family however. I am well prepared to protect them, to teach them and to provide a positive hopeful attitude filled with the wisdom of forty-two revolutions around the sun.

As an educated and experienced professional forester I draw this analogy to our present situation through the lens forest fire activity and ecology.

Fire plays a crucial role for the health of many natural ecosystems. Historically, fires were a frequent occurrence in the western coniferous forests. These frequent fires were low intensity fires revitalizing the forest ecosystem by reducing undesirable fuels on the forest floor, keeping insect and disease problems at bay, naturally thinned aging or dying trees and most importantly helped coniferous cones to open and disperse their seed for natural regeneration.

As pioneers and homesteaders made their way west, they inherently fell in love with the beauty and majesty of these vast forested landscapes. Overwhelmingly, we decided to maintain their beauty, deciding we must preserve them and never allow anything deemed bad to happen to them. We designated many of these areas special and sacred. We vowed to not allow something so destructive as a fire to ruin the beauty we saw with our own eyes. As humans our judgement is flawed without learning.

We tried to reduce or eliminate the one key process that made these beautiful lands so magnificent when we first set eyes on them. Due to this course of action, fuels built up over time. Aging trees became susceptible to insect and disease infestation. Frequency of fire was drastically reduced at enormous cost. Natural regeneration suffered immensely. We reached a point where once frequent low-intensity fires morphed into infrequent high-intensity catastrophic fires that we have now unfortunately become accustomed to. Nature’s hand is being forced. Nature manually presses the HARD reset button. Nature will be victorious in this battle.

When dealing with these fires, whether by prescription or response, we are taught that fire needs three things to survive. Fuel. Oxygen. Heat. Eliminate one of these from the equation and fire cannot exist. In a forest fire, the fire is a living beast with an insatiable hunger for fuel. It will ravenously consume everything in its path until it runs out of fuel to eat. In wildland firefighting we are also taught, if you find yourself in a treacherous situation, as a general safety rule one must always have an escape plan in mind. This plan should include getting oneself into the black. In the black there is no fuel. The fire has consumed everything. It is a zone of relative safety. The fire may rage all around you, you may feel discomfort from ambient heat, but you can control your immediate safety in the black.

These are strange and precarious times indeed. There is a hungry fire searching for fuel. Be educated to provide safety and shelter for what you can control. Learn to come out on the other side better than when you went in. We are human, we can learn from and adapt to nature, but nature will win.

Stay in the black…