Don’t be the cause of a wildfire

After the long, dreary spring, summer has arrived.

As lovely as it is to relax at the beach or campsite, there is a scary downside to the current spell of hot weather.

The combination of high temperatures, several days with high winds and below-average precipitation in June have led to a high wildfire risk in the Shuswap and a pocket of extreme risk in Salmon Arm.

A rating of high means the fire hazard is serious and “extreme caution must be used during any forest activities,” notes the Kamloops Fire Centre.

Extreme means there is an extremely high fire hazard. General forest activities may be restricted, including open burning, industrial activities and campfires.

Whether resident or tourist, all of us need to match our concern with the risk – that means, be on extreme alert.

Be extremely careful when using equipment outside, including lawn movers. In this heat, a spark can easily ignite a conflagration, particularly if the wind is up.

Officials at the Kamloops Fire Centre have already discussed the possibility of imposing a prohibition on campfires.

These folks understand the iconic place camp fires hold in the hearts of outdoor enthusiasts and don’t take shutting them down lightly.

But how about we take responsibility for protecting our forests ourselves by buying a propane campfire. If you must have the “real” thing, keep the fire small, no bigger than a metre by a metre, have eight litres of water or a tool to put it out and have a fireguard in place.

A small, contained fire is compelling; a huge, out-of-control wildfire is terrifying.

Every year in British Columbia, on average, we experience more than 2,000 wildfires, reports the Kamloops Fire Centre. Typically, more than half of those wildfires are caused by lightning and the rest are caused by people.

Let me spell that out very clearly; almost half the wildfires in this province are human-caused, often by careless campers or partyers who don’t take the proper steps to make sure their campfire has been properly extinguished.

A longtime Wildfire BC official once told me that a campfire is not out until you can put your hand in among the ashes.

There was frustration in his voice because so many abandoned campfires had been discovered following a long weekend.

Last year, the province took a tougher stand on irresponsible behaviour that contributes to increased wildfire risks by increasing fines for a variety of wildfire-related violations.

To better protect communities, natural resources and infrastructure from wildfire damage, British Columbia now have some of the highest wildfire-related fines in Canada.

Let’s all take responsibility for preserving our beautiful forests, our properties and maybe even our lives.