If you think grass field burning is bad, you should come visit my house. My family and our neighbors have been choking on smoke from smoldering slash piles since Nov. 13.
We live in a small valley about 20 miles southeast of the Spokane Valley, near the town of Rockford. My family owns the leases on several hundred acres of government land that we use to graze our cows. This land is managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Six years ago, DNR had our leased land logged, without even letting us know this was going to happen. The loggers just stripped the land, then left behind a terrible mess. There were downed and broken trees everywhere and meadows were turned to mud bogs by their big machinery. Since then, we have been unable to use much of the leased land for grazing because of the mess left by the loggers.
The loggers did leave really nice roadways, though, for all kinds of people to come through our place. Some of these people have left their garbage, gun shells and our fences down behind them.
When the fences are down, our cows are able to wander off. This can be a great nuisance for both us and our neighbors.
We have repeatedly asked the DNR to call and give us 24 hours notice when they need to come out to do work. This would give us time to move the cows if necessary and tie up our dogs. Not once have they ever notified us when they were coming out.
We have always tried to be reasonable, but after what happened last week I have had enough!
Someone from DNR came out on Thursday of last week and started several slash piles on fire. Some of these piles were more than 100 feet long. All of them were left to burn unattended.
When I came home Thursday evening it looked as though the whole 400 acres was on fire.
Leaving my children with a neighbor, I moved our animals to safety and then ran through the trees and burning piles trying to find whomever had started these fires.
No one was there.
I called our local fire department and found out the DNR only has to notify the local dispatch office that they are going to burn. I was told that someone from DNR had called and stated they were starting several slash piles on fire and that they expected the slash piles would probably burn through the night and the next day.
These slash piles have been smoldering for more than a week now.
We have been in a heavy cloud of smoke every morning and evening since they torched the piles.
I have two small children, a neighbor with severe asthma and another neighbor with a four-monthold baby.
How much smoke is too much?
I will take the one or two hours of smoke caused by the responsible burning of bluegrass growers any day over the haphazard and irresponsible way the state government burns its slash piles.
MEMO: Kris Barnes, 33, was raised on the ranch near Rockford where she now lives with her husband and children. She stays busy running the ranch and rearing her 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter.