Wildfire news, November 6, 2008

Ex-firefighter arsonist receives 10 years in plea

Wildfire Today earlier covered news about the fired Honolulu firefighter who was arrested for setting three fires. He was fired for trying to get his fellow firefighters to give him a urine sample for the fire department’s random drug tests. Now we know why he needed that clean sample.

Kenton Leong, 42, admitted in court yesterday that he smoked crystal meth before setting the fires in July. He pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree arson as part of a plea deal with prosecutors that calls for a 10-year prison sentence. Leong was a firefighter for 17 years before he was fired. He was originally charged with two counts of first-degree arson and one of second-degree arson, but admitted to the reduced charges as part of the plea agreement reached with prosecutors.

Leong’s cooperation with the investigation and his willingness to seek drug treatment may make him a good candidate for parole, prosecutors said. Leong also agreed to pay the cost of fighting the fires. That amount will be determined later.

Former USFS Ranger turns 100

Harold Bush worked for the U. S. Forest Service on six national forests, including the Allegheny in Pennsylvania and the Daniel Boon in Kentucky. He just turned 100, and he seems like he would be an interesting person to have a cup of coffee with.

Talking about Mr. Bush, an employee of the George Washington National Forest has noticed a trend that many of us have–the specialization and compartmentalization within the land management agencies.

“Back then … forest people had to be a little bit of everything, a jack-of-all-trades,” Debbie Kiracofe of the U.S. Forest Service said, explaining that workers didn’t specialize in areas they do now, such as hydrology and fire. “They pretty much did what they thought was right.” 

Here is an excerpt from an article at rocktownweekly.com

Harold “Hal” Bush never wanted to work for the government. 

But he took a job with the U.S. Forest Service in 1935 working with the Civilian Conservation Corps because “it was too big a program to miss.”

“I went into the Forest Service with a temporary job, and that ‘temporary’ job lasted 35 years,” the Bridgewater resident said. “The work was fascinating.”

The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests’ Dry River District in Harrisonburg hosted a birthday party Wednesday for Bush, who will turn 100 on Tuesday. He was the district ranger there in the 1940s and ’50s.

About 30 people, many of whom are retired Forest Service employees, showed up to wish Bush well and get signed copies of his book, “Flashbacks of a Forest Ranger.”

The book mostly deals with Bush’s experience working in the CCC.

Many things have changed since Bush was a ranger, especially how the agency is structured and regulated, said Debbie Kiracofe of the Forest Service.

“He has such a unique perspective on the Forest Service,” she said. “He told me one time if he signed on to the Forest Service now, he wouldn’t last one week because of all the rules and regulations.”

As Bush admits, “I kind of bended the rules a little bit.”

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