Excerpts From My Speech on Forest Fire Prevention (Reprinted from February 22, 1999).
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the time of the year that we really have to watch out. Every day now, as we sit in our homes, thousands of acres of good forest are burning to the ground… and there is nothing we can do about it! We sometimes fly helicopters over forest fires and drop sacks of water on the flames, but that’s just for show. It doesn’t do any good. Even those ditches we dig and those smokejumpers we employ have no conceivable effect on the course of a raging fire. But listen, if we put all that energy into simple PREVENTION, then we’d be a lot better off. It’s a lot easier to put out a fire which has already been prevented. A LOT easier.
YOU DON’T JUST LEAVE A CAMPFIRE UNATTENDED! It could go off and destroy a National Park while you weren’t looking. DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THAT FIRE! Another thing which can sometimes happen is that a fire can creep along underground, unbeknownst to the firekeeper, and then it pops up fifty yards away — a forest fire. This is why I think you should always have plenty of water nearby. And don’t be afraid to use it. People these days are always talking about saving water and conserving it for this and that, but what’s more important, trees or water?
Well, let’s look at it this way, you can make an awful lot of paper out of just a few acres of forest. And most of the animals we really love — deer, rabbits, hippos, goats — they all live in the forest. Imagine all of them burning up! Fish, for the most part, are unaffected by forest fires, which is probably why you don’t hear much from water conservation activists on this subject.
I suggest we put up a fireproof barrier or something. Keep the kids out of the forests if we must. Let them play on supervised playgrounds, or indoors, at least until they can learn to handle matches properly. Also, maybe if we were to make sure things weren’t so DRY out there then our hillsides might not go up in flames so easily. This gets back to my point about water conservation. We could prevent a lot of fires if we just moved a few lakes around. I understand that much of the technology which I am discussing here tonight might not actually exist, but that is no reason not to mention it.
Also, I understand that if you leave certain glass containers, like soda bottles or jars, out in the middle of a dry field, the containers can act like magnifying glasses and concentrate the sun’s rays onto a specific points on the ground. This, too, can start a forest fire. Someone once told me that forest fires are natural and we should let them happen. This is a lot of crap. Trees turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, which is probably the single most important gas on this planet. We probably wouldn’t have any oxygen at all if it weren’t for trees. I think people who believe forest fires are natural are just like people who don’t use deodorant because they think the way they smell is good. No one really likes to be around such a person.
In conclusion, I’d like to make a few points about bears. Many people are afraid of bears. Small children, in particular, find them terrifying. So why, I ask you, do we employ a bear, SMOKEY THE BEAR, as our national spokesperson for forest fire prevention? I would imagine that some children see him up there with his hat and big teeth and they think, “Let him burn.” That is awful! How can we let our children feel this way? Some recent statistics have shown a startling trend towards arson-induced forest fires. That is to say, fires started by people ON PURPOSE! Damn it! What is wrong with the world today that some sick child would burn up all those trees? And bears! And frogs and foxes and all the things that call our forests home. What greater waste is there on this earth than a God-damned forest fire? When I think about all those trees out there in Idaho burning up like matchsticks just because we don’t have the sense to protect them, it makes me want to puke.
Thank you for your time. Good night.
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