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The hottest summer that ever was

     This must be the hottest summer that ever was. My memory isn't foolproof, though, so I checked with Frank Coupal and Mary Harker, who keep scrupulous records. Frank says July was only slightly above average, but some cool weather in early July brought the monthly average temperature down. Mary reminds me of the cool, rainy weather of June's first two weeks, and notes that we have had only one day where the temperature reached 95 degrees. It just seems hotter.
    The scheme that works to keep our house cool --- wide open when the sun goes down, five fans noisily drawing in cool air; closed tight when the sun rises, five fans endlessly, loudly circulating --- doesn't work when cloudy nights hold the day's heat. Cloudy nights with flashes of dry lightening are a worrisome thing. Lightening snapping, thunder growling. Dog nights.
    These hot nights worry the forest like a dog with a bone. It is not a matter of if there will be forest fires; the only question is when. These forests will burn. There is not enough money to pay enough people to thin the heavy vegetation that covers these mountains. Even with thinning and logging, remaining trees would still burn, but maybe not with the ferocity of a huge, well-fed fire. This summer we have been fortunate to have several drenching rains. However, every summer without big fires will only thrust the growing danger into the future. Our children will inherit a fire deficit.
    Today, August 18, as I write, in Florida there are 800,000 people without power, without flushes, and without clean drinking water. Thinking of these poor folks, some of whom have lost everything, none of whom will even have a fan to keep them cool, dampens my grumbling about being too hot.
    Our chances of avoiding death, saving our buildings, and escaping being terribly uncomfortable are better with a forest fire than a Caribbean hurricane. Imagine trying to minimize the damage of 150 miles per hour winds with a garden hose. With water and forethought something can be done to mitigate fire damage.
    There are actions--- these are things you can think about while watching dry lightening -- that should be done to protect your home from forest fires. Get rid of the shake roof, clean the gutters, screen any vent holes, replace foundation plants that are dry, and remove overhanging tree branches. It only makes sense to eliminate all the kindling from around your house.
    There are dramatic pictures from the Los Alamos prescribed fire that got away a couple of years ago and burned through the town of scientists. Pictures showed how the fire crept under rail fences, without scorching the rails, crossed the lawns, and burst into tall flames upon reaching the oily, packed with dead needles, juniper bushes along house foundations. Those smart Los Alamos physicists lost their homes because of the kindling piled around the wooden walls.
    The Cabinet Ranger District at Trout Creek and the Sandpoint Ranger District will have helpful information. The most useful tool will be water that is available even if the power is out.
    In the summer of 1980, we watched Nova on TV. (My memory is assisted on this date, as well, because my mother-in-law died two days before St Helens blew. Until then, we did not own a TV. Nova was the first program we watched on the inherited machine.) The program presented a computer created model of the near future based upon a slight rise in temperature. Scientists, using this model, predicted intense hurricanes, ferocious tornadoes, devastating floods, and severe forest fires. They predicted the spread of tropical diseases and glaciers melting. The global temperature worldwide has risen one degree and all these things are all happening.
    It is a disastrous shame that global warming became a political issue in the United States.
    The dog days of August are best when partnered with clean, cold water. Getting into a lake, river or creek immediately soothes the body and spirit. The treasure of our region is in its clean, abundant water. And if the world is headed to a hot place, at least our hand basket contains that fundamental elixir.

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Lou Springer Lou Springer lives in Heron when not out on a river somewhere.

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fire, forest fire, weather, climate change, global warming

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