There are many things in this world that are useful to mankind but
are also a danger by circumstances or if used in the wrong way. It
doesn’t take too much thought to think of one or two such as vehicles,
computers, cellphones, etc. The one I am thinking of as been around for
eons and brings us more comfort than grief most of the time.
didn’t take mankind much time to tame fire. I am sure he had seen it in
nature though lightening strikes and combustion in one way or another.
So he quickly learned that fire kept him warm on a cold night; that it
lit his way on dark nights and kept wild animals at bay.
put that first steak over the fire he learned that cooked meat was more
tender and very flavorful; he honed weapons over it, made pottery that
lasted for many years due to its hardening and found, as we do, that
watching a cheerful fire flicker and flame on a cool evening brings
comfort and peace.
Before long he was learning more and more ways to start one of those
fires by twisting a stick in a hole, using friction, or by striking rock
against iron to make sparks, both with very flammable tender, flammable
material such as dried moss or leaves, nearby to catch the spark. The
first match came along in 1827, so prior to that it took a lot of work
to make fire, or a responsibility to never let your fire die so it could
be restarted the next day. Of course early man could also see how fires
could go the other way. Lightening started fires in the forests which
would burn and put them in danger should they be on its downside. He
know fire had no qualms about destroying anything flammable in its path.
Something we know all to well today.
We agonize over the many
acres of forest that burn due to dry weather each year in our western
states, we feel the lost for those who lose their lives or homes in its
In 2013, there were 4,319,546 acres burned in 47,579 fires
in the United States. Of those 9,230 were caused by lightening and
38,349 by humans. Sometimes fires are prescribed to prevent larger and
more damaging fires. In 2013, 18,764 of these fires were prescribed.
Uncontrolled wildfires cost millions of dollars in property lost each
year and often lives as well. We may not have forest fires nearby, but
when a wheat field catches on fire during harvest, it is a serious
situation with flames traveling fast and reaching 15-20 feet in the air.
It has taken lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars in combines and
equipment. Each year homes go up in flames, often through the
carelessness of its occupants.
All of us are familiar with Smokey
the Bear, an icon that promotes fire safety. His motto, “Only You Can
Prevent Forest Fires,” is well known. That must be true according to the
number of fires caused by humans. Smokey has been a familiar face to
children of many generations. Smokey’s website has lots of information
for children and adults; even a map that tells you where fires are
occurring in the United States. This map is updated every Friday. It can
be found at: http://www.smokeybear.com/wildfire-map.asp
come a long way since that first fire, but still struggle to contain it
when it is uncontrolled. Men and women risk their lives each and every
day to stem fires and their destruction. Prevention is the best option
by being careful with fire and its many uses.
We sometimes forget
that in the belly of the earth there is fire. It manifests itself in
volcano action and hot springs and geysers all over the world. It’s hard
to imagine molten rock and the red lava that is emitted from an active
volcano. Of course controlled fires are friendly and have so many uses
today. Every car on the road has an internal combustion engine, a
controlled, specific fire. Furnaces, electricity, steamships and
airplanes all begin with a controlled fire; it drives spaceships and is
used to sterilize surfaces; it’s widely used to produce products in
Although you may cook with electricity, it all starts
with a fire, in most cases coal, although more and more changes are
occurring here. At one time the cookstove was the mainstay of the
kitchen, the heart of the home. It warmed the home, heated water for
washing, cooked the food and in general made life easier. All of us
enjoy a campfire, whether it’s to cook on or just to roast marshmallows,
the cheerfulness it brings forth is enjoyed. The white, red, orange,
and yellow flames dancing over the wood and the glowing of hot coals is
just comforting and peaceful.
Fire can be friendly or a raging
inferno that puts lives at risk and endangers the environment and all
that is in it. At its tamest it makes our lives easier and more
enjoyable. So, enjoy its controlled uses as they surround us in our
Jeannine Roediger has lived on a family
farm all her life, first as a farmer’s daughter and now as a farmer’s
wife. She writes weekly for the Times Bulletin and enjoys gardening,
quilting, cooking, bird watching and writing.