This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Ontario is said by the daily papers to have lost $10,000,000 by the forest fires of last season, - and next year, and another, and another, she will probably lose $10,000,000 every time. And yet all this may be avoided by spending a few hundred thousand dollars in carefully keeping down underbrush ; and insist-ing on the burning at once of the waste from forest clearings. But somehow it seems both to Canadians and Americans much easier and more humanitarian to raise half a million dollars to give to the widows and orphans of sufferers by fire, than to spend a quarter of a million in preventing their homes, with the fathers and husbands, from being burned up. It is a funny world, especially where it is about forestry..
The reader, no doubt, often meets with paragraphs like this one, which we take from the daily papers of May 3d :
"On Tuesday sparks from a locomotive set fire to the scrub oaks at Aquebogue, Suffolk County, L. I., and ten acres of timber land belonging to Edgar E. Wells were destroyed. Another fire near Yaphank burned over eleven miles of land. At Brookhaven, Joshua Carman's barn and dwelling-house and the residence of Joshua Glover were burned to the ground. After midnight the wind arose, and the fire started with renewed vigor, threatening the village of Bellport. The church bells were rung, and the inhabitants turned out and fought the flames until daylight, when they succeeded in subduing them. Early to-day a fire started south of the Long Island Railroad, between Bartlett's Station and Yaphank, and burned rapidly toward Carman's River".
The paragraph is reprinted here in order to emphasize the point often made in this maga zine, that no one should be allowed to maintain acres of dead underbrush to the endangering of thousands of dollars worth of other people's property. So far as railroads are concerned, they should certainly be held to great care ; but on the other hand, the owners of property should also contribute their share of caution. The wood's underbrush, or even the timber and all, should be cleared for a hundred feet at least from the line along all railroads. The man who allowed gunpowder to lie around loose would be thought as culpable as the man who walked over the powder-strewn path with a cigar in his mouth.
Dr. Warder believes keeping out underbrush from forests may do as a remedy against forest fires; but is not a desirable practice, as it prevents new forests from succeeding the old, when the mature ones are cut away.
The following is one of the many samples of newspaper paragraphs running through our daily papers at this time, as they do about this season every year:
"The forest fires are raging fearfully, extending from Glen Dam to within a mile of Tawas City. At the Miners' farm, a few miles from Tawas City, the farm products are burning, and C. W. Carrie's place is on fire. The farmers are driving their cattle to the shore and sending the children to town. On the East Tawas road many of the farmers' fences and much hay and grain are aflame, and three dwellings burned. The loss is very great. Travel is cut off in many directions. Strenuous efforts are being made to save Glen Dam".
And yet we must not have laws compelling the clearing out of the gun-powder-like dead wood with which the underbrush of so many forests are burdened, because it may interfere with the second growth of the forest when the original is cut down.
Of what use is a second growth if it is to be burned up every once in a while ?
At Montreal, the Committee on Forest Fires presented a report recommending, first, the reservation of all pine and spruce lands unfit for settlement for lumbering purposes exclusively; second, the prohibition of the burning of brush by settlers in the vicinity of fir trees during the months of May, June, September and October; third, the division of the timber county into districts, and the appointment of police, under a superintendent with magisterial powers, whose duty it shall be to detect and punish offenders, and provide for the extinguishment of fires; fourth, the cost of maintenance of this protection against fire might partially be met by the imposition of a moderate tax on those owning or leasing timber lands.
It must be apparent that when there is abundant dry and decaying material underneath large forest trees, there is nothing whatever in these resolutions calculated to prevent forest fires. The only feasible plan seems to be the one we have often suggested, namely, not to permit this material to remain. With this rotten and rotting material gone, we have absolute protection, and it thus becomes an arithmetical question whether it is cheaper to spend a few hundred thousand dollars for a certain protection, than lose millions on millions, and this, too, annually, not to say supporting thousands of office holders as police and superintendents, simply in the effort to "punish" those who may be "offenders," whoever that may be after a year or more of a pending lawsuit has proved them such; and provided always that such probable "offender" be caught at all.