Fire Prevention in the Forests

Fire Prevention in the Forests

In an announcement made by the Forest Service of the Department of Interior recently, the surprising statement is made that the fire losses in the eastern section of the country and Mississippi Valley is greater in respect to actual damage done to forests of that region than in that of the western portion. The percentage of loss in the Mississippi Valley is set down as sixty-one per cent, annually. To be sure this estimate includes the heavy losses in the terrible forest fires in Minnesota in 1918. That region lying east and south of Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee is credited with thirty-two per cent, of the losses sustained in the past three years, the average annual loss of this period in forest devastation by fire being reckoned at $20,727,917. As to the greatest two causes of these costly conflagrations these are given in the report as, first, farmers starting brush fires for clearance purposes and these getting beyond control or being carelessly left to smoulder and come to life again; and, secondly, the railroads, the fruitful cause in this instance being principally sparks from engines’ funnels falling upon dead leaves and timber and starting a blaze, which, in the dry state of the forest, soon is fanned into a disastrous fire.

Many plans have been adopted to avoid this great loss of timber. These have consisted mostly of watchers in towers and in airplanes and other means to detect the incipient blaze. But these efforts have been sporadic and half-hearted and still the loss goes on. There would seem to be room for more concerted effort and more efficiency in method than heretofore in the protection of forests. Aside from their timber-producing value the forests are largely the preservers of our water supplies. They cover and protect our springs and small streams, which are the nucleus of all of the rivers from which the water is taken. Without the forests these water courses would soon dry up, and many of our water departments would find themselves without anything to supply their pumps. There is room for a great deal of intelligent Fire Prevention work in connection with the American forests. The water works men are really much more concerned in this matter than at first sight might appear.

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