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Slater Fire

by | May 12, 2021 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Slater fire poured smoke over my house from 40 miles away. Closer to the front line my ex-husband evacuated my daughters’ from their home. 

The fire was the result of everything going wrong at the same time, and strong winds from an unusal direction drove the fire. Earlier that summer another fire had swept through a nearby town, burning to ground the community one of my students lived in. 

©Kristen O’Neill, Slater Fire (detail of work in progress), Encaustic & Charcoal from Forest Fire on Panel.

Fire is here. Fire doesn’t feel like our friend when we lose everything thing. Or worse, when someone loses their life. Three times, so far, I have waited for fire maps to update to see if my mom’s house (my childhood home) would be lost. At one point this summer every road from the town I live in led to a forest fire.  We were safe, but certainly not going anywhere. Emotionally it was stressful, and made us all feel even more trapped in our homes on top of months of pandemic restrictions.

Part of the reason that fires feel so dangerous is that we haven’t had a good relationship with them. It is like the abused dog that lashes out. Now we have the long course correction stretching ahead of us. We need to protect our homes and communities. We need to let fire back in the forests. And as a society we need to make some pretty big decisions on how we are going to approach this complex issue.