Firefight in Oregon

By Stephen J. Pyne Who should control fire on landscapes? It’s an ancient question given new spark by the confrontations at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The Hammonds, a father-son pair of ranchers, set a fire that escaped their land in 2001. (The reason for the fire is disputed, but the government says they sought to hide evidence of illegal deer hunting.) Then in 2006, during a burn ban, they started a fire that threatened firefighters working a lightning-kindled blaze uphill. They were convicted of committing arson on federal property and given prison sentences. (Because nothing in this story is simple, the pair served some time, but then an appellate judge ruled that they must return to prison because their sentence didn’t meet the mandatory minimum.) Read on