By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
Fires are raging around us and severe drought conditions are plaguing us. Some estimates are that 40,000 plus acres of forest land has been burned and we are several inches below our normal rainfall. People are being asked to evacuate their homes because of the threat of fire. Many communities are being asked to voluntarily restrict water use to preserve water as we endure the drought. Air quality alerts have been issued because of the smoke that invades communities from the spreading fires. Every time the wind shifts, another community get another dose of smoke and fire spreads in another direction.
So far, death and home loss has not been an issue. A big reason that this is true is the hard work and dedication of the emergency services and firefighting personnel of the Qualla Boundary and western North Carolina. Anthony Sequoyah, who heads up Emergency Management for the Boundary, gave reports throughout the holiday weekend on progress made on the 700+ acre fires here. He stated in his report that 167 men and women were fighting those fires alone. Thousands are spread over western North Carolina, creating fire breaks and defending life, homes, and businesses from the fire that sometimes pushes into commercial and residential areas.
We were reminded this weekend of the bravery and sacrifice our armed forces, past and present, have shown over the years. They rightly deserve our respect and gratitude. In addition to those brave soldiers, I think we need to make sure that we don’t take for granted the incredible men and women who work tirelessly to ensure our domestic safety. From fire fighters to medical responders to our police, they risk life and limb in defense of our lives and limbs. They work long hours. They see horrific scenes of devastation. They see the human body in some of the most grotesque forms imaginable. They console families in their most fearful times, and they do all of this with what most would consider minimal pay and very little recognition.
We sometimes let our day-to-day routine make us numb to the suffering of others. We hear a siren and see red flashing lights behind us and we get irritated because it might interrupt our travel for a moment. Maybe traffic is backed up on our normal route home and we get frustrated, even when we find out it is a serious accident where someone may be fighting for their lives. And, those blue and red lights flashing means there are people at work trying to keep you and others safe while others are saving lives.
During this time drought and fire, remember those who stand in harm’s way to ensure that you don’t go home to ashes or find yourself in a burning building with no one to rescue you. Many of you have supported them with food, water and other supplies. Each of us needs to find our own, personal, way to thank them for what they do.