Editorial: Get ahead of fire risks

Fire is an annual threat to this part of the world, so why not be more proactive about it?

The wildfire season is far from over.

That’s the message that fire services all over British Columbia are saying, and it’s everyone’s job to heed their warning and behave accordingly.

The Doctor Creek fire near Canal Flats is the most visible sign that we’re still in the thick of it. By media reports it’s the worst fire in the province as of Sep. 8. Meanwhile as I write this Vancouver and Victoria are being blanketed by smoke from fires in Washington.

Here, we’ve been lucky so far. But it doesn’t take all that much for everything to go up in smoke, and given that the forests around the Elk Valley and beyond are looking particularly crunchy, it’s disappointing to read even occasional reports of unattended fires in the past few days.

Considering the risks they take and the level of dedication they show to community safety, the fire service workers of the Elk Valley and across B.C. are owed a lot more vigilance and care on the part of those out enjoying the outdoors.

The environment that we enjoy here in the Elk Valley is a lot more enjoyable when it’s not on fire, so how about we keep it that way by following all recommendations from the people that would know.

I grew up in a part of the world where fire was simply inevitable. Homes outside of towns were vastly more expensive to insure, properties with only one road in or out were regarded as deathtraps, and any and all outdoor fires were banned for large chunks of the year, without exception. If there was a fire coming, you just got out of the way.

B.C. is different to where I grew up, but not so different. Fire is a seasonal thing, it happens every year, and it’s dry.

Our local MLA, Tom Shypitka called for a fire ban in late August, citing the dry conditions and the-then much smaller Doctor Creek fire’s spread.

As of early to mid September, there’s no news on whether a ban is coming, and it’s unlikely there will be one given it’s so late.

But it got me thinking: Why not go further, why aren’t camp fires banned throughout summer anyway?

Why not just get ahead of the danger, and ban outdoor fires during the warm and dry months?

This is a climate region characterized by warm summers. The summers are getting longer, and the forests and grasslands are very dry this time every year. Looking around, I would say seasonal fire bans could well be in the future for this part of Canada, regardless of how many or how few fires there are each season.

I like a good campfire as much as the next person, but to reduce the risk of human-caused fires wrecking havoc through our ecosystems and communities directly or indirectly – I’d call them a necessary sacrifice.


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