Like pyromaniacs who start fires and then join the volunteer fire brigade to help douse the blaze, there is no shortage of irony that the Utah National Guard started the Sept. 19 Herriman wildfire and then were "activated" by Gov. Herbert to help put it out.
Even with Camp Williams' Adjutant Maj. Gen. Brian L. Tarbet public "mea culpa" for the guard's role in starting the blaze with machine-gun bullets, irony rains down like glowing cinders: Tarbet promises to make things right by having the military repay those damaged by the blaze.
In other words, taxpayers paid to start a wildfire, paid to put it out and will now pay to compensate residents who suffered property losses. Later, we'll get to pay to reseed the hillsides to prevent mudslides and erosion. And by the time this saga ends, there will be millions of dollars involved. The three families made homeless by the wildfire must find it cruelly perverse that their tax dollars helped make them homeless.
It begs the question: Just how big of a mistake do public employees need to make before it becomes grounds for dismissal? Is there a dollar amount? A level of embarrassment done to the department? A measure of harm done to property and people?
Message boards overflow with pro-military sentiment, insisting the National Guard can do no wrong and no one should complain since guardsmen are practicing to wage war and defend our freedoms. Others argue that civilians are developing homes too close to Camp Williams -- residents should know and accept the risks of living close to military training grounds.
But had any other division of government wreaked this much havoc--torching 4,300 acres and three homes, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents, closing schools, choking the air --would the existing department heads, the ones who allowed it to happen (not just one time, mind you, but rather often), still be in charge? Do these folks exist outside of the public check & balance system?