Be fire safe when outdoor burning

Firefighters remind homeowners to have sand, water and other materials on hand

This week's editorial.

It’s time to break out the shovel, sand and water hose.

Fire season appears to be upon us.

That’s right, it’s only April. But in the past week, we have had 11 fires in the South Cariboo. Some of them were a little too close for comfort, especially a five-hectare fire near Canim Lake on Resort Road, which is now contained but is still being monitored by 14 BC Wildfire Service personnel.

It’s scary stuff, especially here in the South Cariboo, where the spectre of 2017 wildfires still looms over us. We know the damage fire can wreak. One fire is too many, 11 is downright terrifying. One spark in these tinder dry conditions can have long-lasting effects on our region.

What’s even scarier is a lot of these fires can be prevented. While some of them are still being investigated, firefighters suspect they were all human-caused, likely by well-intentioned homeowners who were trying to clean up their yards when the fire got away on them. Others say the influx to our region from other parts of B.C. may be part of the problem, with new residents not realizing that despite the snow on the ground, we haven’t had rain and the conditions here are drier and different from where they used to live.

Shannon Wagner, chief of the Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department, notes the conditions can be “deceptive” to those who might not know the area. “If that grass catches and ends up candling in the trees we’re going south pretty quick,” she said.

The situation has prompted the chair of the Cariboo Regional District to light a fire under the BC Wildfire Service to put a burning ban in place to serve as a reminder to be cautious.

Thankfully, our dedicated teams of firefighters are on top of it across the South Cariboo. As are local residents, who are quick to call in whenever they see smoke or fire. The other day, fire trucks raced to put out a fire on Canim-Hendrix Road only to find out it was a false alarm, as someone was burning a contained slash pile.

Sometimes when there’s smoke, there’s not always fire, but it’s heartening to know everyone is being extra vigilant right now. Nobody wants a repeat of the 2017 wildfires.

It’s up to the rest of us to do our part to keep that reality from happening. Get a fire permit and check the venting index. Have a bucket and a rake, a pail of sand and a hose nearby before you light the match. Call 911 if the fire looks to be getting out of control.

Or, better yet, don’t burn at all right now.

All it would take is one spark, a gust of wind, and a backyard burn could be more than disastrous for the entire province, especially in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

Stay safe out there.

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