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Keeping with year's theme, fire season is catastrophic; political atmosphere adds to the heat

As per usual, late August and early September have hit the region with a fiery vengeance. The beautiful timberlands of the north-central Oregon Cascades are again ablaze.

Communities to the west, throughout the Santiam country, spent their Labor Day evacuating. Locally, the day came with a welcome cool-down but with a thick smoke from the erupting Lionshead fire on the reservation.

Climate change isn't making forest protection any easier, but it does make it all the more urgent that we alter our national forest management plans. It's hard to know the answers, but the questions become more clear every summer. We can spend millions, maybe billions, on sustainable forest health and fire protection programs, or we can spend billions chasing massive conflagrations that leave devastation and sometimes death in their wake.

The wildfires just are adding to the heat of what's going to be a heated fall. Tensions will be high as families juggle work and online education programs. Politics will be as thick as the smoke was Monday. All the while, COVID-19 lurks about. It's hard to stay sunny and happy.

Meanwhile, the presidential election is a powder keg, largely because the current president incites both love and hate like no other president or candidate in my lifetime. In our state alone, protests and support have led to violence that has caused death and injury. This is deeply concerning and needs to stop.

All of us should do what we can to douse the political fires. Be passionate, sure, but keep a sense of positivity. Help preserve what level of national unity we have. Post-election, no matter the victor, restoring some level of unity to the United State needs to be Job No. 1.

- Tony Ahern


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