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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


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For the week of August 1 - 7, 2001

  Opinion Column

Gratitude poured upon Sage Hill firefighters

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

How true what Smokey the Bear has said all those years, staring grimly from those roadside signs — "Only you can prevent forest fires."

And so it was that someone in a single, careless moment allowed heat or sparks from an industrial lawnmower to ignite the fire that swept up Sage Hill last week.

Had winds whipped flames away from the hill and into trees and structures in the densely populated condos area near the Warm Springs ski lift, Ketchum would’ve seen an unimaginable disaster, and perhaps reducing a whole neighborhood to ashes.

Because of the close-in location of the fire, thousands of residents were in a position to watch firefighters on the ground and in the air battle the stubborn blaze. They saw a dirty, hot, thankless, risky job being done quickly, skillfully. To say that gratitude has been pouring from the town for fighters would be an understatement.

Western state politicians who sit pompously on their laurels in Washington and rarely have any kind things to say about the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service should’ve been here to see BLM and Forest Service people preventing a catastrophe.

Some Americans never seem to learn from the greatest teacher of all, history.

When votes were tallied last week, President Bush and a minority in the House had lost to tougher standards for arsenic levels in drinking water.

The president and the 189 congressmen who voted for softer arsenic standards seemed more concerned about costs than risks to the health of Americans.

Because tens of millions of Americans in this century alone have suffered inexcusable health risks either because of indifference or obstinacy by policy makers and industrialists, the public now is demanding error or on the side of caution in the handling of air and water and food.

The U.S. government right now is paying some $40.5 million a year to 81,000 victims of coal mining’s Black Lung Disease and their dependents.

Legislation has just been passed to care for the health needs and to compensate perhaps tens of thousands of former workers in nuclear weapons plants who’ve been diagnosed with radiation diseases.

Who can forget how the federal government stalled and denied for decades that the defoliant Agent Orange was responsible for the deaths and so much illness among Vietnam War vets.

Indefensible stalling is taking place again as the Defense Department denies any connection between the mysterious Gulf War syndrome and service in Operation Desert Storm.

Yet, with this history on the books, politicians and industries that fret more about costs try to obstruct every step toward cleaner air and water, safer workplaces and wiser care of the environment.

Those who’ve shown vision and stubborn dedication to improving the lot of Americans have the ultimate testament on their side — a longer life expectancy for the nation.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.