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The Cariboo deserves more respect

Past Deadline column

There are some places that are so close to your heart you’ll never forget them.

To me, that area is out Big Bar Lake way, where I spent most of my childhood. When that area where I grew up was put on evacuation alert last week, it truly hurt my heart. It’s my happy place, the place I go to in my head when I need some peace and reflection.

When I was a kid, we were surrounded by forests and creeks. Our nearest neighbour was a quarter of a mile away on dirt or gravel roads. Our summers were spent horseback riding in the Marble Mountains. We were far away from everything. The rugged isolation marks the beauty of the area, but is also its downfall because with structures few and far between, a fire in that area is likely not seen as a huge problem until the Flat Lake fire is breathing down on the doorsteps of those who live there.

More than 100 firefighters are doing the best they can to keep us safe in the South Cariboo and I’m truly grateful for their efforts. But when it comes to rural areas, I question why more can’t be done. And I seriously wonder why it took the Premier so long to step up and declare the provincial State of Emergency, especially given that Lytton was gone and the Cariboo was burning.

Oh wait, it’s the Cariboo, not the Lower Mainland or the Okanagan.

This revelation was underscored the other day when I had to make a rush trip to Vancouver. As I travelled through 76 Mile, the smoke was so thick that it clung to my clothes. In Vancouver, the radio spoke of the fires - in Kelowna and Kamloops. There was no mention of 100 Mile House, despite the Flat Lake wildfire aggressively sweeping across the region, the South of Canim Lake fire making its relentless march across the landscape and the Young Lake fires posing a threatening menace to 70 Mile House.

It’s as if small communities past Hope, through the beautiful Fraser Canyon and along Highway 97, don’t matter.

They matter to me.

It should be a prerequisite that any politician in this region and the premier of B.C. and even the Prime Minister get to know this province. They should camp in our beautiful provincial parks, eat in our restaurants, meet the people who live and work here. They should get out of their boardrooms and the Legislature and onto the land to see exactly what we have in B.C. and what’s at stake.

They should see the forest for the trees and maybe then they will listen.

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