Teen-agers: What cost is poor judgment? | SummitDaily.com

Teen-agers: What cost is poor judgment?

Whitney Childers

You should have known better.”

How many times did you hear this as a teen-ager? Growing up, this succinct sentence, followed by a glare that could have melted me, was an occasional occurrence in my home. Not that I was a difficult teen, just someone who pushed the envelope a little too far for my parents’ comfort level.

But, did I really know better?

Last week, 10 teen-agers participated in an act that could have resulted in a catastrophic wildfire in Summit County. What was the act?

Well, these teens thought it would be fun to party next to a raging bonfire near the south fork of the Swan River. And did they partyS

The bonfire was apparently 6 feet in diameter, with the fire extending 5 feet high. This, during one of the most devastating wildfire weeks in Colorado’s history and fire bans dominating the news.

Luckily, a Sheriff’s officer was patrolling the area and caught the partiers. Poetic justice would prevail and the officer made the teens use their untapped keg of beer to douse the blaze.

“They should have known better.”

But they didn’t. Being a teen-ager can mean making egregious mistakes, showing poor judgment and generally being a pain in the ass. It’s a right of passage, I suppose. Many times, adults don’t even make it past this level. (See latest story on U.S. Forest Service technician who started the Hayman fire).

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think every teen-ager is doomed to make a jerk of himself or herself. But, in this case, these 10 teens succeeded.

Sheriff Joe Morales, believed the incident was a “conscientious disregard for the safety of others.”

I disagree. The Sheriff is giving these teens too much credit. I wouldn’t be surprised if the teens didn’t have a clue about the fire dangers in the county, much less what was happening outside the county.

Is it possible these teens watched the nightly news earlier that evening or read any newspaper in the state? I doubt it.

Did the kiddos sit down with their parents and talk about fire danger or what was happening in Hayman or Glenwood? I doubt it.

I’d be willing to bet ignorance and poor judgment played the biggest role in this latest teen-age prank.

One of the teens involved in the bonfire confessed to starting the blaze. The teen was cited for reckless endangerment. Also, the information has been given to the district attorney’s office for possible prosecution.

But, will prosecuting this kid solve anything or make others’ think twice before lighting a match? Probably not.

One reader wrote in to comment about this case and believes the 10 teen-agers should all be made to work alongside the firefighters who are battling the Glenwood or Hayman fire. The reader also suggests their parents should do the same.

While maybe not a reality, I agree in theory. The ability to show someone the consequences of his or her actions could go far at building character and strengthening awareness of the world outside their own.

As for the parents, why not? A little encouragement to communicate better – or more efficiently – with their kids, would be beneficial. I have a feeling if each parent of the 10 teens would have had a brief discussion about fire danger – such as the kids not going out to deliberately start a fire on their own – the kids might have averted this mess.

And, before I start receiving pounds of mail on that statement, please know I do not have children. I probably couldn’t cut it.

Though, he or she probably would be forced to read the newspaper every day.

These are my thoughts. What do you think about the teen-agers starting the bonfire and what the punishment should be? Send us a letter to the editor about this or other fire-related topics to wchilders@summitdaily.com

Whitney Childers is the editor of the Summit Daily News. She may be reached at 970-668-3998, ext. 227.

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