With the fire still burning on Bateman Island near the Richland Y and shrouding the area in smoke, this fire should reinforce the idea that removing the island's only entry and exit is a bad idea.

Granted, the island doesn't burn every year. But it's been a few since there's been a big fire and Bateman Island is choked with dense brush and undergrowth. This has made the fire difficult to deal with, say Richland Fire officials.

KEPR-TV, KNDU-TV and other sources are reporting Richland fire crews are having to work cautiously, because there's only one way off the island. They have to make sure they 'secure' an area, and are able to pull back onto what's called 'black,' or already burned areas.  These pullbacks occur of a fire shifts or wind causes it to change direction. The crews would have to retreat to the causeway fast if a fire were to runaway.

When fighting any kind of brush fire in our region, crews always make sure they have an escape route and plan.

For this reason, the idea of removing the only access to the island by dredging out the causeway is a bad one. We reported last September about environmental groups and some fishery officials who are pushing to remove the causeway, or earth dam with the road on top, to improve fish flow around the island and lower water temperatures. These officials believe it's necessary to help the fish.

The plans looked at removing the causeway to create a true island don't include replacing the causeway, but instead installing a footbridge type of structure. It didn't appear to be one that vehicles could readily cross. In the event of a fire, this would make suppression very difficult and dangerous. Without a way to quickly get emergency vehicles onto the island, a fire could destroy most of the vegetation and wildlife.

It would also force fire crews to utilize 'amphibious' landings to fight the fire, which is extremely dangerous. They'd have no way to get out of there fast if a fire picked up speed.

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