Clearwater Times editorial by Stephanie Hagenaars

EDITORIAL: Sometimes it’s best to live with some uncertainty than incite panic

While it’s important that people continue reporting fires or smoke, it’s crucial that we wait for official word on those fires.

It feels like it’s never-ending.

Just as we’re about to open up after COVID-19, we’re now in full-on wildfire season. High heat, coupled with lightning strikes, have put B.C. on alert as firefighters battle fires across the Interior. The loss of the town of Lytton has made this fear all the more palpable.

It’s understandable that people are scared or worried, especially given that it’s only been four years since the 2107 wildfires. Social media is rife with people sharing information – from where fires are burning in the province to monitoring lightning strikes in real time. These can be useful resources, but they can also create unnecessary panic.

Our fire crews, many of them volunteers, from B.C. and all over the world, are working tirelessly, day and night, to get many of these fires under control.

The BC Wildfire Service provides all current information on wildfires, and their dashboard is updated every couple of hours. The Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s emergency page provides evacuation alerts, orders and information on what to do if an alert or order is issued in your area. These are the official sources and while it may sometimes seem like it’s taking too long to get the information, they are attempting to verify every fire reported.

Social mediums like Facebook and Twitter have brought communities together, with the ability to converse in real time without having to leave the house — something that became important for many of us during the pandemic. It is definitely a useful tool. But at the same time, it is not helpful to anyone by posting unverified information. While it’s important that people continue reporting fires or smoke, it’s crucial that we wait for official word on those fires.

Stoking fear by posting a screenshot of a few dots on a map without any further context isn’t helpful either, especially when many are still recovering from B.C.’s worst fire seasons just a few years ago.

It would be truly devastating to have a wildfire rip through our communities the way they have others in past years and over the last few days. It’s tragic what’s happened to the people in Lytton, as well as those threatened by fires in the Cariboo and Kamloops regions.

It’s human nature to want to know. Humans fear uncertainty. But maybe sometimes it’s best to live with some uncertainty and wait rather than to speculate and incite panic.

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