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KoreaScouter

"Scouts + Fires = Trouble"

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Let me quote the story with the above headline from Pacific Stars and Stripes:

 

"If the Boy Scuots are blamed for starting the blaze that blackened 14,200 acres in the Uinta Mountains area in Utah this summer, it will not be the first time they have had trouble with fires.

 

Utah fire officials say they received more complaints about illegal campfires at the Boy Scouts' camp than at any other spot in the region.

 

Although fire restriction notices are posted along roads leading to the camp and camp staff are notified of the ban, officials say the message often does not filter down to troop leaders and the boys themselves.

 

During the summer of 2001, state fire warden Scott Wheaton says he was sent to the camp twice to investigate reports of smoke during a period when fires were prohibited."

 

Now, I'll concede that not everything you read in the paper is true, but let's say that this is. Here's my thoughts; what are yours?

 

- How could camp staff not communicate site rules to troop leaders, or troop leaders to youth leaders?

 

- How could troop leaders, if informed, ignore the rules, especially when it comes to fire safety?

 

- How could troop leaders, if the rules were communicated to the youth, not follow up and correct violations on the spot?

 

- How could leaders not "be prepared" to extinguish the accidental or discovered illegal fire before it burns 14,000 acres?

 

In my business, we have a saying: "One oops wipes out a thousand attaboys". Here's a perfect application of that. I don't live in Utah of course, but I sure wouldn't want to be a SM trying to get a permit to use public or private land there...

 

You know, this is all about rule following. Some of us love to beat up on Bob White 'cuz he's so...procedural. And, most of us have seen the eye rolls and heard the air leaks at meetings when somebody reminds the group of SSD rules before the pool party, or the money earning application before the bake sale, or the tour permit before the outing, or in this case, earning the Firem'n Chit before carrying matches.

 

Out of curiosity, how do you do your cooking? We use mostly camp stoves, and a BSA charcoal table for the dutch ovens. Very little on-the-ground open-fire stuff. We'll use the fire ring at our troop campsite on base, but most other places we camp here don't permit on-the-ground fires. Do it and get caught, you won't be welcome there again, and I know my DE would rearrange the Scout Store to make room for the mounted-head trophy he'd have...

 

 

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KoreaScouter, I know well the "stars and stripes". Not comment.

 

Not only did the BSA get the blame for this, but on the backpacker web site, scouts have a bad reputation for being inconsiderate on the trail.

 

We cook with stoves mostly. Charcoal on aluminum foil for dutch ovens. This is done on sandy ground that won't make a scar on the ground. The fires we do have are included in the firem'n chit class. Fires only in designated areas because...

 

In Germany, heres how the law works. If you cut down a tree without the forest meister's approval, you may get fined for that tree and the trees that it would have produced. No lie. The same for roadkills, if you run over a chicken (it happens)and found at fault, you may get fined for all the eggs that it would have produced. Crazy right?

 

This makes for some pretty uptight leaders and parents. The scouts know that when they do get to do all the cutting,sawing, and burning, its the best thing in the world.

 

Chances are this type of law came about due to overuse, carelessness, and destruction of the environment.

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Yaworski this fire was started by a boy scout troop the one you are thinking of was in New Mexico.

 

I think this a case of making all Boy Scouts looking bad just because a few leaders didn't bother to impart information to their troops about restrictions on a campground. Now we are all going to pay for a little while.

 

We Carefully check to make sure that ground fires are alowed or we use the stoves to cook. Luckily where we are we have no drought restrictions so most places still allow groundfires and all leaders and scouts must go the Fireman's chit training. WE also keep 2 fore extingushers in our Troop kitchens and they are checked annually and buckets of sand nearby as well as shovels.

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Sidebar;

The NM fire (Ponil Complex) was started by three lightning strike fires that merged.

The fire started allegedly by the park employee was in Colorado I believe.

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KoreaScouter

Some people just don't care. During Summer Camp this summer our Troop shared a campsite with another Troop (We had 9 people, they had close to 40) we were given the tents farthest away from the fire ring. After lunch on Monday when I was going back to the waterfront I passed the fire ring in which a blazing fire was going. I personally checked every tent for a member of their troop - none were to be found. Naturally, I put out the fire using quite a bit of water. That evening their Scoutmaster and I had "words" about putting out the fire. The next day their SPL asked if it would be okay to leave hot coals in the fire ring to make the next fire easier to start. Go figure!

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ScouterPaul's story raises a point about the reported fire in Utah. If the alledged incident in Utah was at an established scout camp, and that camp was a piece of real estate owned outright by BSA at some level, the scouts may not have been as restricted in their use of fire as they would have been in other situations. The camp here in California that our troop regularly attends is owned by the Greater San Francisco Bay Area Council (name may not be totally correct), and there are fire rings in most camp sites. Since there is a large dining hall used for all meals, these fire rings are not used for cooking.

 

This is not to excuse any misconduct by scouts in any environment, but restrictions may differ within the same state or physical environment, depending on who owns the land.

 

For the record, I don't think any of our boys have cooked anything over an open fire other than charcoal. We have had plenty of campfires for entertainment purposes, but we use stoves for almost all cooking.

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It's important to know what level of restriction you are under and just what that means. As I understand it from some rangers I spoke with out west this summer there are circumstances when even stoves are not permitted.

 

I will agree that things like this happen in scouting only when adult "leaders" allow it to happen.

 

Bob White

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Bob is correct. Due to the very extreme fire danger in the Angeles National Forest now, there are some campgrounds where no fire of any kind is permitted, including stoves. Other campgrounds permit stoves only (not charcoal BBQs). Trail camps and wilderness areas have the same restrictions. The next level of restriction would be "no entry". It's that dangerous.

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One way to approach the fire issue is to go beyond the basic requirements of BSA and train your scouts on local procedures, restrictions, permits etc. Needless to say, there is a lot of variation across the United States, and properly so.

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Korea Scouter. The troop I am with makes an effort of plan o-ntes that allow us a variety of cooking choices. Some allow only propane,some charcoal, some allow open wood fires (conditions permitting) some no fires. This allows the scouts the chance to practice many different skills. One o-nite no fires were allowed but we had a leader with access to MREs with heater tabs. Kids loved it!! Liked them better than the c-rats I have known. Variety in what the scouts have to adapt to works well for us. Does your troop have a special meal or dish that you prepare?

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Red Feather, A heads up on the MRE heaters. They have to be disposed of as hazardous material, like paint and some household cleaners. The military came out with this policy in the past year. Also caution the scouts about playing with the heat, although they feel hot, they produce a cold-injury type burn. Magic? I don't know why, just does. Not to give bad ideas, but many of "popper" or "MRE Bomb" has been made by emptying the gray heater stuff into a plastic bottle, adding water and screwing the top on tight. As the pressure increases... you get the picture. Hope this helps with the MRE stuff.(This message has been edited by Double Eagle)

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It sounds like some leaders at best were ignorant, and probably just plain idnored rules and local laws. If they are found to be guilty, they can be charged the ENTIRE amount of fighting the fire. Next time you have a leader that does not want to follow policy or laws, bring up the monetary aspect. That usually gets more attention.

 

On our campout last weekend, we were allowed to have open fires, but only in established campgrounds, in the provided fire rings. I had personal phone contact (not messages) with the BLM person in charge of the campgrounds.

 

We cooked over both a camp stove and the fire, and the boys learned a lot. We had an adult monitoring the fire (even tho the boys were unaware of it, one monitoring the axe yard, and a third helping (with suggestions) the cooks.

 

We had 2 buckets (about 3 gals of water in each) near the fire. I stayed with it to make sure it was out when the boys went on a hike, accompanied by the other adults.

 

Was there a fire in the area? Yes. It was caused by a lightning strike less than 5 miles from where we were camping. It has now burned over 13,000 acres, with one structure burned. That structure was probably over 100 years old, and unknown untill the fire.

 

I found out last Tuesday that there were at least 3 troops camping inside 10 miles from the fire start point!

 

Unlike many areas, our forest and BLM personnel like our troops. We are involved with clean-up days, trail maintenance, etc. One of our recent Eagles project was to restore the Blue Ridge Fire Lookout.

 

As was stated, the problem that caused the Utah fire was the adults, not the boys. Time to think about some new leaders in that unit.

 

Paul Johnson

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Thanks for the replies; sounds like a heapin' helpin' of attention to detail and rule following is always in order.

 

On the cooking, I've personally become smitten with Dutch Ovens, and always encourage the Scouts to plan at least one Dutch Oven menu item we've never had before. Most popular (besides cobbler, of course): lasagna, pizza, cinnamon rolls.

 

Double Eagle: I lived in the Netherlands for 3 years, so I know all about getting a bill from the Hague if you wipe out a tree skidding on black ice, having 7 different trash cans, and not being able change your oil in your driveway. And, no "wild camping" allowed. Can be a real pain in the neck, but in many ways the tradeoff is worth it.

 

The local fire chief, ranger, land owner, tribal warlord, etc., is always a best last stop before striking the match. When we camp on Army property here, we need what they call a "hot work permit" before we build a fire, and they come out and inspect the site before we light it. Better safe than sorry.

 

KS

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