Rep. Ken Ivory’s American Lands Council is using a misleading video on Facebook to claim that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) deliberately started a 2012 wildfire in Oregon in order to kill cattle grazing on public land. In reality, the 161,000-acre Miller Homestead Fire was lightning-caused.
As is typical for grass fires, the fire front was fast-moving and could only be controlled using back burning techniques to create firebreaks (known as “black line” in firefighting parlance). It’s usually too slow and too dangerous to fight a grass fire directly using hand crews and bulldozers.
To add insult to injury, this bogus BLM smear video was paid for by taxpayers.
Ivory, R-West Jordan, was a co-founder and CEO of the American Lands Council, to which 47 counties in Western states spent a combined $219,000 of taxpayer money in 2014 to be members, according to the Center for Western Priorities.
The same lies were put on the Web last December by Ammon Bundy, claiming “BLM Destroying Ranches by Fire: Feds Burning Cows ALIVE, Torching Homes, Imprisoning Ranchers!” The baseless allegations against the BLM were intended to highlight alleged hypocrisy in the prosecution of two ranchers for earlier incidents of arson on public lands. A few weeks later Bundy led an armed terrorist takeover of the Malheur National Wildife Refuge on January 2.
From the official press release on the Miller Homestead Fire:
Two structures are reported lost in the incident: one, a long-abandoned, roofless mobile home, and the other a single structure within the M.S. Davies homestead (other infrastructure in this area was unharmed). It is also reported some livestock have been lost, though accurate counts have not been confirmed. All residences affected by the Miller Homestead fire have been successfully protected…
Firefighters successfully protected all residences and the hamlet of Frenchglen, but this doesn’t stop the anti-government fanatics from accusing the BLM of “torching homes”!
From the final report on the same fire:
Local Coordination – Local landowners and permittees were engaged from the initial attack on. A member of the Incident Management Type 3 Team stated, “Local folks worked well with BLM staff during those first few days. There was lots of coordination. BLM crews helped cut fences, open gates and secure cattle.” A landowner and permittee stated, “They worked with me on letting me build direct line that saved important feed from being part of a backfire. They got ideas from me for tying in black line, and it worked.”
Another said that initial attack priorities were set and communicated early with all involved.
Others noted that the Burns District tries to hire local young people for the crews when possible. This helps with knowing people and the land. One stated there is a strong sense that this is their home, and they want to protect it.
…Cattle represent a significant investment and their livelihood to their owners, and great lengths appear to have been taken to get them to safety in conjunction with fire activities.
An example of this occurred at Lone Tree Lake, a small dry reservoir. Six ranchers and a BLM law enforcement officer stayed with about 200 head of cattle while the fire burned around them. Just prior to the fire front reaching them, they burned out around the small dry reservoir to provide a black line for additional safety for the cattle and themselves. Fire managers were aware of this situation, and a helitack crew gave advice on where and when to ignite backfires.
Bear in mind that safety is always of paramount concern in wildland firefighting. Yet BLM personnel took personal risks in order to preserve property for ranchers during this fire.