Never underestimate the power of fire and wind.
Those who do are quickly proven wrong. A strike of a match or even an unintended spark whisked by a tiny gust can set the earth afire. An old saying, “It spread like wildfire,” comes to life and soon engulfs the countryside taking prairie, timber, homes businesses, cities and lives with it. Nature becomes the uncontrollable power.
We’re bluntly reminded of that every spring when the Flint Hills become aglow with the traditional burn-off. As essential as the blazes are to preservation of this great Bluestem wonderland, there are still considerable hazards and controversies as well.
Our speculation is that most landowners today realize how essential burning on a planned schedule is to management of native grasslands in helping control invasive plants. Not too many years ago, some proprietors had completely opposite views, being strongly opposed to burning, not realizing the true value.
There are probably a few of those still around, and definitely uncontrolled flames can cause discontent among neighbors. Arguments and even lawsuits are not uncommon, when one burn spreads into the plains nearby consuming it without control. Tempers can quickly flare from the unplanned intruding on their strategy and profits.
Having been on both sides of the fence, so to speak, there can be legitimate issues either way, but sometimes nature just plays the guiding role despite all coordination. Planned and controlled burns are most land managers’ objectives.
They calculate moisture, wind conditions and have manpower, control methods and seasoned knowledge to follow preset objectives. Yet, a simple change in direction and intensity of wind, or even density of the fire’s fuel itself, and a combination of all can turn into an uncontrollable nightmare.
There sometimes can be no stopping it, until nature ends the wind, or there’s nothing left to burn. Despite today’s urbanization, fires can readily spread 100 miles and more. Without fail, there are deaths caused through attempts to control these merciless infernos.
Accompanying these hazards are the smoke which obscure nearby highway vision, and traffic deaths have occurred in such situations, as well. Likewise, smoke drifts to distant cities contaminating air quality all along the way.
All of this has brought lawmakers into the discussion attempting to set guidelines on when, where, how and even whether the tallgrass can be burned. Nature managed the heartland environment with fire and wind before mankind intruded, so despite any manmade rules, those two essential components will always have the ruling hand.
It is like Psalm 104:4″He makes winds His messengers, flames of fire His ministers.” We are also reminded of Jeremiah 10:11: “God’s power made the earth. He launches wind from his warehouse. Stick-god worshipers look mighty foolish. When the fires of judgment come, they’ll be ashes.”