Do we still look forward to summer? (Opinion)

Rob Galloway

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that they came to Tahoe in the winter to ski, stayed for the summer, and never left, I probably wouldn’t be rich, but I sure would have a lot of dollar bills. 

Summer in the Sierra has always been something to cherish, something to look forward to – temps that are warm (but not scorching hot), brisk water to cool you down, and every single outdoor recreation option at your fingertips. Oh, and in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. But is that the case anymore? Do people still look at summer in the Sierra the same way they looked at it years ago? 

While some may say yes, I would argue that most people look at it differently. Many of those same people now look at summertime with a hint of fear. What’s that big fear item that tops the chart? Wildfire. 

I cannot recall the last summer in and around the basin where we were not inundated over a prolonged period of time with smoke. Whether from fires close by, or even fires states apart, smoke, for some reason, likes to make its way through this part of the Sierra. It has created another season that many have dubbed: smoke season. 

How long we will get to enjoy “summer” as we know it before it gets interrupted by smoke season has been a crap shoot these past few years. And when it does come it has held people hostage indoors because of poor and unhealthy air quality. This is no way to spend summer. 

Over the years, as wildfire and drought have become increasingly worse, I wonder where is the best place to start. How do we get our summers back? Perhaps there is no way to go back to the good old days, but if the last couple years have taught us, wildfires have only gotten worse. There has to be some type of solution – it wasn’t that long ago we were excited about the summer season. 

For every fire in the western region, water is a necessity to put it out. Not a great solution when the whole region is drought-stricken on a consistent basis. It’s drought that helps to fuel these massive fires when they happen – although I will say forest management has been better around the Tahoe Basin than in other parts of the west and you don’t have to look any further than the Caldor Fire last year to see how this is a necessity. But, is forest management enough? 

Should penalties for starting wildfires be harsher? Should more nuanced research be done to help prevention? Should the representatives in Washington do more to combat climate change? Should we take a more active role in vocalizing the dangers and the current fire restrictions to visitors? The answer to these (and many similar) questions, in my opinion, is yes. 

For every drought-fueled season we have, the chance for large-scale wildfire increases. Each time one of these happens, not only do we scorch the beauty that surrounds us, but also we put people’s homes and lives in danger, while also draining our most important natural resource… As well as spending billions of tax dollars to help extinguish. 

No matter what side of the political fence you sit on, I’m certain we can all agree that fire and smoke-laden summers are not the ideal setting. Political party aside, this is a crisis that affects everyone equally and there are actions that can be taken no matter what your affiliation is. The only question that remains is what and when. The what is up to you, but the when is now. 

Rob Galloway is publisher of the Tahoe Tribune and the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at rgalloway@swiftcom.comor 530-542-8046. 

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