Weather in the Pacific Northwest is close to perfect. Green, lush surroundings make the Columbia River Gorge one of the most the scenic views in the country, lulling us into thinking it will be picture postcard perfect forever. But each year the forest fires burn hotter, the brush is drier, and fire prevention resources become a little thinner. More acreage than ever has burnt to a crisp this summer.

This month Eagle Creek Canyon is ablaze. Evacuation is devastating; and having to find temporary living quarters unexpectedly is distressing, even more so when animals are transported as well.

As soon as people get the word that roads are open, they will head home to assess the damage. Meanwhile, the public is asking how the fire started.

People are angry with a group of teens

Witnesses have come forward with video evidence showing a group of teens lighting and throwing a smoke bomb into the canyon, apparently unphased as to the potential magnitude of their actions. Breathing in smoke and wiping ashes off car windshields, many victims are wondering about the name of the young man who allegedly started the Eagle Creek Canyon fire.

It destroyed the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, which continues to be a raging inferno ever since. But before the witch hunt begins, consider a few points.

Teens prove over and over they are not responsible to safely undertake adult responsibilities. Just one example of this is driving. Children shouldn't be driving other children around. Controlling the behavior of passengers is almost impossible for even the most experienced driver.

Ask any parent. Let's give the youngsters safer driving rules.

Did smart phones exacerbate the problem?

Smart phones have influenced our society in unimagined ways. People now film a catastrophic event to be the first one to post it on YouTube, before they call 911. Case in point, a young lady recently filmed her injured sister while she died in a car accident rather than comforting her in her last moments.

She posted it online before the ambulance got there. Is the line between reality and virtual reality getting blurred for these children?

When you lob a lit smoke bomb in real life, someone or something will get hurt. The fact that young people may have trouble separating truth from fantasy is cause for caution. Few kids leave the house with harmful intent, but they can get caught up in the moment and get themselves into trouble. Were they taking selfies when the canyon caught fire?

Suggested penalties for juvenile offenders are forestry education and community service (planting trees and clearing trails).

These seem fair to all parties as the Forest Service could use more help. Although the State of Oregon has successfully sued people guilty of negligently starting fires, collecting a debt of six or seven figures has been a challenge especially when a guilty party files bankruptcy to avoid payment.

Bring back Smokey The Bear

Hearts are heavy when millions of acres of this beautiful country burn every summer from fires started with no respect for human life or wild life. Maybe it's time to rethink the Forest Service's policies of the 1960's before the "let-burn" policy was adopted and take a proactive approach to managing our forests.

There must be a compromise between policies going forward.

The Columbia River Gorge will eventually replace its breathtaking foliage, but we'll never recover from the human fatalities and loss of animals and wildlife. Forgiveness from the locals will take a while. Tension is in the air. These teens will grow up with the memory of this mess shadowing them for a lifetime.

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