Clearwater Times editorial by Stephanie Hagenaars

EDITORIAL: Don’t be part of the problem

A large number of wildfires every year are human-caused and preventable

We’ve barely come into the wildfire season and fire crews in Clearwater and surrounding communities have been called out to numerous incidents, many of which are suspected to be human-caused.

Not too long after the snow melted, crews were called out to grassfires near Vavenby, Blackpool, Clearwater and Little Fort for out-of-control slash burns, bonfires that weren’t quite extinguished, fireworks, and target practice with Tannerite — a couple of them were just left to burn.

Those blazes were within the District of Clearwater or Thompson-Nicola Regional District boundaries, covered by volunteer firefighters. But when a blaze is outside of these boundaries, there’s little our emergency crews can do but watch from afar and monitor.

Three of the worst fire seasons have happened in the last five years. In each of those years, a significant portion of them was human-caused — more than one-third in 2021. It doesn’t take much. An abandoned campfire or a cigarette butt tossed out of a car window can easily go from an ember to a blaze that pushes people out of their homes.

As of May 10, BC Wildfire Service crews have fought 41 blazes in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

Last Monday’s (May 2) blaze reminded us how quickly a fire can grow, and we haven’t yet entered the hot dry weather expected this summer. Residents and emergency crews watched on the sidelines, waiting for help to arrive. It was eventually contained at 2.5 hectares before it was put out the next day.

It took crews 2.5 hours to respond to that fire. With the recent news that BC Wildfire Service will no longer permanently station initial attack teams in Clearwater – they will be in Kamloops instead – the response times could be considerably longer this upcoming fire season.

Our volunteer firefighters are trained and ready to fight fires as they happen, but we can’t always be reactive and their manpower is limited. Naturally-caused fires are beyond our control, but human-caused fires can be prevented.

It’s not a matter if, but when more fires will happen. With the loss of our personal attack teams in Clearwater, the onus is on all of us to make sure we all do our part in preventing fires this season.

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