Still No Apology from the National Guard!
1Note from Ace et al: Local and long-time rancher Fred Osburne lost buildings and fences, and 2,000 acres of his land was damaged by the 2006 fire set by the National Guard. Nicknamed the "Tracer Fire" because it started when Guernsey National Guard members fired live ammo rounds into dry grass on a windy day, the fire destroyed a total of over 13,000 acres. We're printing Osburn's letter here in Wheaterville because the story shouldn't fade away. And Osburn deserves an apology at least! The local papers never covered Osburn's side of the story. Instead, the Platte County Record Times quoted the National Guard's statement that the fire was "one in a million." Osburn and others challenged that, but the challenges were never printed. The following piece by Fred Osburn was finally printed in the Platte County Record Times in early January of 2008. He was told that it couldn't be printed as a Letter to the Editor. Instead, it was put on the back page of section two, in small font. And Osburn had to pay $1,500 for that. That just doesn't seem fair...and it sure ain't the Wheaterville way. We're gonna leave it up here until he gets that apology...
Click Here for a slideshow of some of the fire damage.
IT HAS BEEN 19 MONTHS SINCE THE NATIONAL GUARD SET THE TRACER FIRE ON THE NORTH RANGE. This June 13, 2006 fire caused by negligence burned approximately 13,000 acres including 2,000 acres of my property. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN AN APOLOGY FOR THIS. The damages to my property were very extensive. Miles of fence were burned which will take a lot of material and repair. The fire also ruined the north part of historic Sawmill Canyon and burned several buildings and corrals. Also the fire ruined grazing land and killed thousands of trees. The BLM recommends not to graze burned out areas for two years and the trees are not going to recover for 100 years. THE TRACER FIRE WAS ONE IN A MILLION” was a National Guard quote from the meeting held in July 2006. In the last 30 years, the National Guard has a very poor record as to fire prevention on the North Range and other ranges during training on their land. It has become routine for the Guernsey and Glendo Fire Departments to fight fire set by the National Guard. More than one instance the Guernsey Rural Firemen were stopped by the National Guard from going to a blaze on private property so the NG could continue to shoot artillery! The newspaper coverage of the Tracer Fire was terrible. None of the newspaper articles showed the destruction of private land and buildings. A few months after the Tracer Fire, the local editor was going to publish photos with an article on how the fire affected the landowners. That article never did happen. I think the Tracer Fire and the Chicago Mine Fire of 2006 were probably the two worst fires in northern Platte County ever. I’m guessing the two fires burned 28,000 to 30,000 acres of which approximately one-half of was caused by National Guard negligence. Another fire occurred west of Guernsey on Sept. 29, 2007. This one was set by ROTC during training. The similarities now are showing between this fire west of Guernsey in Sept., 2007 the Tracer Fire of June, 2006 and some of the California fires in October, 2007. They were all started by people in extremely high winds and severe drought conditions. According to the Guernsey paper, people were very uneasy about the west Guernsey Fire, as they should have been. This fire could have easily jumped over the river bed and been in town. Later at the council meeting, concerns about the National Guard fire policy were simply brushed aside with statements of “This is what we do.” Isn’t anyone outraged by this??? So far I’ve had NO APOLOGY and no help from the National Guard to repair the burned fences or to clean up the destroyed buildings from the June 2006 Tracer Fire. Some fence material was available after I contacted them. This letter has been submitted to make the people of Guernsey and Platte County aware of what is happening at or near the Camp Guernsey Training Areas. Photos are also included to show the damage done to my property north of Guernsey taken in June thru September of 2006. I had not intended to write this letter but after the Sept. 29, 2007 fire I felt I had to.Fred Osburn, Osburn Ranch, Guernsey, WY