SATURDAY SHORTS: A little illegal campfire near Yosemite has a staggering cost

September 6, 2013 

Firefighters weren't able to save the home in the foreground from the Rim fire, but the small cabin in the rear left still stands in the Stanislaus National Forest near the undeveloped Spinning Wheel campground.

ELIAS FUNEZ — The Modesto Bee Buy Photo

How much damage can one illegal campfire do? The answer, we all know from the local events of the last three weeks, is that it can ignite a wildfire of historic proportions.

There is no way that the unidentified hunter could have known what his illegal act would do, and no way one individual, no matter how healthy or how good his insurance coverage, will be able to cover the $81 million cost.

For generations, Smokey Bear has been admonishing children and adults: Only you can prevent forest fires. If nothing else positive emerges from the Rim fire, it should be a memorable lesson that illegal campfires are illegal for a reason. Ignoring laws can come at a staggering cost.

Farmland preservation effort recognized

Last fall, the little-known Local Agency Formation Commission decided that it won’t approve annexation requests from cities that don’t have a solid farmland preservation policy. The benchmark is an acre saved for an acre lost, known as a 1:1 mitigation, but cities also have the option of going to their voters to approve boundaries to limit growth. We have applauded that LAFCo policy, as have many others. Now it has been recognized by the statewide association of LAFCos for the project of the year achievement award. The five-member Stanislaus commission also won the “most effective commission award.” Congratulations and well done.

Next door, the county fair is at risk

The Stanislaus County Fair is a popular and successful venture. That’s not true of all county fairs. We’re troubled to learn from The Record of Stockton that the San Joaquin County Fair is in serious trouble, to the point that it might end after 153 years. As noted in a Sept. 4 editorial in The Record: “Falling revenues and attendance have made it likely that without a white horse savior – or a troop of white horse saviors – the annual event will close.”

The editorial said the fair’s red ink corresponds with the Great Recession but also suggests other factors, including the disappearance of horse racing and big-name entertainment and the location of the fairgrounds, in south Stockton.

An interesting point in The Record: “ Can the fair be saved? Certainly officials are going to try. If they want models, we’d suggest they consult the folks running the successful Stanislaus County Fair.” We wish San Joaquin County good luck in saving its county fair. It is a wonderful tradition.

One more strategy to reach parents

Years ago, the Modesto City Schools and other districts simply sent papers home with students. Some reached parents; many did not. School districts have gotten a lot more sophisticated, using websites, email and auto callers, especially to alert parents to emergencies. The Modesto City Schools is adding one more option: Text messages to cellphones, aka mobile devices.

Interested parties must opt-in to the service, by texting “yes” to 68453. The service begins Tuesday and the district asks parents to sign up by that day. It promises no more than about three messages a month.

The service is optional, but we suspect most parents will be happy for the new communications tool. Adults who need help getting signed up for the service should contact their school – or ask a young person.

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