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Wildfires a reminder of Nature’s power

Wildfires a reminder of Nature’s power

A severe drought. A moderate but steady wind that’s coming from the north and very dry. Parched leaves swirling everywhere. 

Welcome to fire season in Western North Carolina, and unless Mother Nature cooperates with some rain in the near future it appears firefighters, mountain residents and some homeowners could be in for some troubling fire and smoke over the next few weeks.

Buncombe County has declared a state of emergency and banned all fires (except for grilling food). The North Carolina Forest Service on Sunday issued a ban and canceled all burning permits for 14 western counties, fearing more fires and potential damage to structures.

A look at the U.S. Forest Service wildfire website  shows where all the fires are located, and as of Tuesday morning two of the uncontained fires are in Jackson County, one in Cherokee County (almost 2,200 acres, 0% contained), one in Transylvania and one in Henderson.

I started the annual gargantuan task of leaf clearing yesterday at my home, and I was surprised at how crisp and dry the leaf litter was. I thought of how we often tout the great variety of hardwoods in the Smokies region, how we take pride in our forests. And I live in a house surrounded by this kind of beauty. But as I removed the leaves from around my deck, I couldn’t help but thinking how easily and quickly my parched yard could go up in flames.

Most of us who follow the news in this region remember the tragic Gatlinburg wildfire of 2016  that ended up taking 14 souls. That fire was determined to be intentionally ignited by teens. It’s not just out West that wildfires can do some horrific damage. When conditions are like they are right now, things get dicey.

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All of this is to say that the smoke we are breathing and the hazy conditions we are witnessing around us are no joke. Wildfires are a real danger and with conditions like we have at this moment, it only takes an ember or a spark to start one.


I believe that at some point in the future, childcare for children from birth through age 5 will be like public schools, available at no cost for all.

Unfortunately, that’s just not the case right now. The closure a few weeks ago of seven childcare centers in Western North Carolina  left about 300 children in need of a place to be watched while their parents earn a living at work each day. Two of those centers were in Haywood and Jackson counties.

“As a non-profit agency, we have asked for additional funding from our government funders, and this has not been granted to us at this time,” Sheila Hoyle, executive director of Southwestern Child Development Commission, told The Smoky Mountain News. “At this time, we have no choice but to close our childcare programs.”

We have a society — blame whomever you want for the situation — in which it is nearly impossible for one parent to earn enough money to raise a family. As things are now, even two high-earning couples have a difficult time paying for and finding childcare. This means that low-income families — specifically the kind that the Southwestern Child Development Commission were helping — have an even more difficult time finding places for their children.

State governments make specific choices about funding these centers or not. Many states are making huge strides in helping families with this cost, but not North Carolina. No, our legislative leaders heard the plea from childcare providers while the legislature was in session, and they chose to turn a deaf ear.

Such is the world we live in right now.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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