It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve written to this blog, one reason is because I was on a short detail into Washington DC working in our headquarters in that town. Seems if you remember we (we as a nation I mean) had an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico that had an explosion and subsequent oil spill problem. My part in our Washington office was to coordinate the Forest Service response to that incident. Our role was to assist the US Fish and Wildlife Service with the clean up of the refuges that are located along the shores of the Gulf.
As a side note, the Forest Service has been managing wildfires and other natural disasters for decades and can mobilize a response team in fairly short order. That said, we may be able to respond quickly but mother nature has something to say about how quickly we control the wildfire.
Now as it seems, other agencies in the Federal Government are getting much better at responding to other types of disasters, such as an oil rig explosion and subsequent spill. For my part, I got to learn about blowout preventers, capping stacks, hard booms, sorbent booms, skimming vessels and other clean up items new to me. Interesting is that the incident command system works for most, if not all, disaster responses though the type of operation may be totally different.
I was leaving DC when Hurricane Earl was moving up the east coast with its associated threats. Did you know the forecasters can track those things from the coast of Africa and with a reasonable degree of certainty predict where they might hit the US? I was looking at satellite information and thinking Earl might go through the Gulf and hit Mexico. The hurricane models predicted it to go up the east coast of the US. I was wrong. Two years ago, I had a chance to work at FEMA in DC when Hurricane Gustav hit Texas with some force. Our nation responded quite well to that one, so unless you happen to live in Galveston or Houston, you may not even remember it.
On a more personal note, my nephew was driving a back highway a week ago last Sunday at about the speed limit of 55 mph. Another driver was estimated to be going about the same speed when he blew through a stop sign hitting my nephew. My nephew’s car went airborne, did a half barrel roll and nose dived upside down, into a front end collision with a ditch. Thank God for air bags and seat belts. Though cut and bruised both he and his passenger crawled out and walked away from that accident. I’m not sure there is anyway to look at it and determine what kind of car it used to be.
Then there is my wife’s nephew, who with his wife were adoring parents of a baby girl born back in May. At a recent wedding the baby girl’s grandfather and I were walking the halls at the reception talking, eachcarrying our grandkids. The nightmare happened yesterday when their baby girl passed away during her nap, for reasons no one knows yet. Our families are in shock. Her name is Ainsley, she was 3 1/2 months old and will be missed.
What do all these have to do with me or with the Forest Service?
Disaster response is part of my job and we will continue to review every situation and learn what we can. One of the messages from the scientists who review natural disasters and then make recommendations, is to keep our forests healthy, adaptable and resilient. Those three concepts should allow our forests to survive through the various threats of wind, fire, drought, etc. I keep those thoughts as part of my thinking for every decision I make.
The oil spill in the Gulf was a tremendous national disaster that occurred underwater, in the ocean, thousands of miles from here and hundreds from any forested area. However, understanding the situation is the Gulf encourages me to keep looking for newer and better ways to utilize renewable biofuels, including the role that our forests and the communities around our forests can play.
My nephew was in a car accident in rural farm lands of Michigan. But this serves as one more reminder that as I work with and interact with Forest Service employees and our neighbors, I will look for both newer, as well as tried and tested ways to work safely, whether driving, working in the forest or canoeing through the wilderness.
And finally, I hugged my grandson a little longer and a little tighter before I put him to bed last night.