Thank you to the men and women who have and continue to battle the raging fire in the La Sal Mountains. Your courage, relentless effort and coming together for a common goal to save and protect the residents and keep the fire from spreading is a significant achievement. We are praying for your safety. My sympathies go out to the residents who have lost homes, animals and have been financially impacted by the Pass Creek fire.

A little about myself: I have lived in a national forest for over 35 years, born and raised in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota. I’ve enjoyed mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, jeep overlanding, ATVs, and dispersed camping. My wife, kids, and friends share the same passions for the outdoors, and we continue to do our part to keep it free of trash whether we are hiking, biking, or traversing on ATVs or Jeeps.

I, like many of today’s youth, did not have parents that enjoyed the outdoors as I did. I was not able to learn proper survival techniques and procedures from them. Thank you to the people who took time out of their busy day to show me things like when you have a charcoal or wood fire you need to have at least one full gallon of water to be used for extinguishing the hot coals before turning in for the night. I continue to pay it forward by sharing knowledge gained from my experiences any chance I get.

A Moab Sun News article stated: “The cause of the blaze has been determined to be an unattended campfire close to the Forest Service’s Pack Creek Picnic Area.” With the popularity of this beautiful area, I would venture to say that multiple people were within proximity to this unattended fire that chose to do nothing. It should be the responsibility of every person to ensure all fires are put completely out, regardless of who started them. It is everyone’s responsibility to be good environmental stewards and leave no trace. And if someone falls short of those duties, we need to take the time to help.

Closing BLM and National Forest access off to the citizens is NOT the answer. Everyone has the same rights you do, and we hold those rights dear. Living in the national forest is a great responsibility with enormous rewards. My family removed trees and other fuel sources that were too close to our house so we had a fire barrier. Yes, I hate raking pine needles still to this day, but I understand why we do it. Having a fire barrier certainly will help protect the close-by structures but, more importantly, it can save the lives of our families and the emergency responders who risk their lives for people they do not know. I challenge everyone to be responsible, get educated, and help protect each other.

In closing, I cannot thank the men and women battling the blaze enough for what they do. We need to quit allowing the media to create division between the brothers and sisters who are responsible citizens in this great country. We need to put our differences aside, get off our rumps, and take the time to educate and help our fellow citizens to have an amazing experience in our wonderful National Forest and pay it forward.

To the men and women who have fought, died, and continue fighting for our freedom, THANK YOU for your service to this great country and her citizens.


Duane Steichen

Rapid City, SD