There ought to be a fine for being stupid. Or, at the very least, when people are stupid and it costs the local government money, the taxpayers should be able to charge the stupid people who caused the problem.
Take, for instance, the 40-acre field fire that occurred across the highway from my home on October 19, 2010. According to the local television news, the fire was accidental, caused by a woman who was burning leaves.
The problem with that is the county had implemented a burn ban more than a month ago. In fact, in a special weather statement from the National Weather Service, the entire region was warned that “the combination on ongoing drought conditions, dry vegetation and low relative humidity will elevate the wildfire risk.” The warning has been in newspapers and on the radio. And, anyone with half a brain, should be able to figure out that no rain in weeks and the dying of grass/weeds/etc. means that conditions are good for fires.
So obviously this woman’s answer was to go out on clear fall day with a steady wind out of the east at about 5 mph and burn leaves. She had other options, including composting, that would not have resulted in burning 40 acres, but apparently neither environmental nor safety concerns mattered to this woman.
Or, perhaps she thought she knew better than the local officials who enacted the ban.
Regardless of why she decided this was appropriate, the woman in question needs to be held responsible for the results of her actions. For at least 10 hours, Carterville firefighters were on the scene. The major loss was a few trees, some signs, and a dried out field. But the costs are significantly higher.
Local law enforcement had to divert traffic off a major state highway because of the smoke. Firefighters spent more than 10 hours on the site. What if police and firefighters had been needed elsewhere? We were lucky and no others fires started while crews were busy with the one she started, but that was just dumb luck.
And, the expense of the police and firefighters ought to be assigned directly to the person who made the decision to disobey the burn ban and burn anyway. Her choice, her cost.
The simple reality is that she endangered other homes and businesses by disobeying the edicts of the local government and we, as taxpayers, are expect to pick up the tab for her stupidity. It’s not fair and it ought to change.
Her stupidity meant I had to close my windows and turn on the air conditioner to sleep that night because leaving the windows open filled the house with smoke. Her stupidity cost me money in the form of tax dollars, a sort of vague notion, and in my electric bill, an absolute reality.
Her stupidity endangered people driving down the highway before it was closed, when the flames came within several feet of the roadway.
Her stupidity engendered firefighters and anyone in the area that needed to breath. The smoke from the fire was visible for more than 10 miles and was choking to those of close by.
Sadly, I doubt this woman will be penalized for her stupidity. But, even more sadly, the rest of us will be.