I have been at sea when it is frankly scary. I have been out in gales that make you dream of home, wine and box sets. There are near misses that are planted in my mind as well. What I don’t have is experience of being charged by a bear while at work. There are two reasons for this.
First I live in the UK and work in Kent. There are no bears roaming free. The second reason is I am not completely stupid like the guys in the below video. Have a look.
The Daily Mirror carried the story. It said 3 workers and the dog were attacked when the mother bear charged. There were rumours that the story was hyped, however, I can see the cubs, then the mother. I live in Liverpool, England. We have a few predators you should be aware of but no bears. The point is even I know cubs bring mother, mother is bigger and when it comes to bears they attack to defend their young. So what were those guys laughing at? Why were they not grabbing the dog and heading for the van?
The other day I read of a mysterious bug killing workers in Indonesia and the threat from sharks to fishermen. It is possible that my reaction to such risks would be extreme because I have not dealt with them. Is it a case of familiarity breeding contempt that causes workers in Siberia to reach for their camera rather than taking to their heels?
I’ll take the opportunity to work anywhere, but in many ways I am glad of my British experience of work place risk. I will leave you with some North Americans showing a more respectful approach to work place bears. A very big work place bear at that.
Currently on Netflix is a documentary about the forest fires that devastated North Western areas of the USA in 1910. I like to connect our understanding of health and safety with those that gave us the knowledge we enjoy. The program is a salute to early forestry workers and their incredible bravery when they fought The Big Burn.
After a season of 1000s of fires the newly formed forestry service thought they had contained the worst of them. Back then there were only about 500 such rangers working to establish an idea of conservation in rugged public lands. Their efforts were often resented by miners and loggers who knew that these backwoods were not theirs to work, but a long tradition gave them a sense of entitlement.
President Teddy Roosevelt, a big time fan of the wilderness, saw the need to preserve natural resources for the future. In the early 20th century unregulated production of timber was slowly exhausting the vast forests and the effects of mining were poisoning it. Enter young men dispatched to tame the disorderly industries that relied on nature.
Some of these guys had a patch of 300 square miles. In there could be boom towns with accompanying violence. In the woods were few roads and a scattered group of operators understandably after profit for hard work. Government interference was not a flavour they took to.
Trains belched smoke and sparks as they thundered through the wilderness. Storms would spit lightening out of the skies and steam machinery in the woods threatened to ignite the world all around.
The summer of 1910 was a dry season. The fires that spread were combated by men with days of hiking to do before tackling them. There were no respirators, no air support or for that matter no special tools.
They did understand how to create fire breaks and until the 19/20th August they were doing well. They had to appeal for federal funds to recruit men just for the purpose but it was crucial work. In the valleys that were surrounded by these dense forests were wooden towns. Worse, this still being a frontier type environment, a lot of the settlements were constructed out of canvas and tar paper. As embers fell it took little to see a town go up like a gigantic firework.
Nature Ups the Stakes and Creates the Big Burn
The worst thing that could happen took place that August. A storm accompanied by 70 mile an hour winds. The programme concentrates on an area around Wallace, Idaho, but in the end 3 million acres were incinerated. That is about half the size of the UK.
87 people, mainly firefighters, were caught in flames that progressed faster than a horse could run. They were high in the hills and overtaken. Many more were injured. Buffalo Soldiers saved one town in a titanic effort after they were trapped. Other places, Wallace among them, were evacuated by rail at the last moment.
The bravery of those people puts us to shame when we complain about trivial events. The survivors hid in mine workings or stumbled frantically out of the path of the flames. Lives were destroyed yet out of the charred aftermath came positive things
What We Know Now About Forest Fires
Apart from the progress in firefighting and safety came an understanding of the wilderness. Ironically we now know that without occasional fires, the forests themselves suffer. Nature has its way sometimes and it is better left to it where possible.
Have a watch of this PBS production if you get a chance. All our safety started with heroics and mistakes and to all that went before I am grateful.