Editorial: wildfire awareness

The summer season is also forest fire season, so don't forget to take precautions as you're enjoying the great outdoors.

School has long been out, high summer has arrived and we finally have a good stretch of the hot, sunny weather we dream of as the rain is falling and the snow is melting during spring. It’s the time of year when locals and out-of-towners are heading out to the trails, campgrounds, lakes and rivers that make the Elk Valley a summer destination.

But the summer season is also forest fire season, so don’t forget to take precautions as you’re enjoying the great outdoors. Quite often the better the weather is, the higher the wildfire risk, as our forests and grasslands dry out in the heat.

This past weekend, forest fire hazards in most of B.C.’s woodlands were rated from moderate to extreme, including our own Southeast Fire District. We are currently on an open fire ban, but small campground fires are still permitted. Just because we still have the permission to burn doesn’t mean we should do it carelessly.

Half of all forest fires in the province are caused by humans every year. It could be anything from a campfire not properly put out or a carelessly discarded cigarette, to lighting an open fire in windy conditions. And 2014, so far, is right on the mark for hitting the historical average. B.C. has already dealt with 424 reported fires. Seven of the most recent 13 fires recorded by the province’s wildfire management branch were caused by humans.

So whether you’re pitching a tent in the backcountry, taking the RV to a provincial campground, or breaking out the barbeque at the beach, make sure you practice a high level of fire safety.

Careless use of campfires is right up there as one of the leading causes of forest fires. B.C. Wildfire suggests that when building a campfire you select your campsite carefully. Prepare your campfire by removing all leaves, twigs and other flammable material from the area. Choose a proper fire pit or make a ring of rocks at least three metres from trees, shrubs, structures and debris. Never leave a campfire unattended and keep enough water to put it out nearby at all times. Most importantly, make sure the campfire is completely extinguished before walking back to your tent, RV, or cabin. Ashes should be soaked with water and stirred with a shovel or stick until all hissing stops. Embers and remaining bits of wood should be cool to the touch.

We’d all like to continue enjoying the endless and wonderful wilderness the Elk Valley has to offer, so let’s make sure it stays that way. As Smokey the Bear says, only you can prevent forest fires. He’s got a point.