While we grapple with the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and adjust to the new normal, the Cariboo-Chilcotin must look ahead to the impending return of the wildfire season.
A bad fire season will seriously compound the effects of the pandemic and will bring with it a whole new wave of challenges to adapt to.
Not only is it understood that poor air quality affects people’s respiratory health, which can increase vulnerability to the virus, but potential implications on the community could be severe. Mandatory evacuations from wildfires this year would create significant health concerns – we would be unable to follow public health orders such as physical distancing, travelling and avoiding groups of people.
In 2017, 40 per cent of wildfires in British Columbia were person-caused. This year, it is urgent that we bring the number down as low as we can. We must reduce the number of preventable, unnecessary fires to effectively manage the demand on wildfire resources this season so that we can keep our communities safe.
There is no doubt that all of the fire departments and wildfire crews in our region are well-prepared to handle the wildfires that may come our way. We all owe it to the people who have been working hard to get us through this pandemic to rally together in the fight against COVID-19.
As of April 16, there is an open fire ban in British Columbia. It is imperative we all follow the provincial fire restrictions, and report any fires, smoke columns, or violations of wildfire regulations by calling 1-800-663-555 toll free or *5555 on a cell phone.
We all must be vigilant and do our part to prevent our communities from having to fight a bad season of wildfires while in the midst of the pandemic.
We must all take every precaution we can.