Wildfire Season in BC, One More Long Weekend to Go

The above picture was taken from: http://bctvkootenays.com/2017/06/28/fire-crews-still-battling-lightning-caused-fires-in-arrow-fire-zone-after-mondays-storm/

This post is not directed towards the average outdoors enthusiast – the ones who are respectful of the environment, plan ahead, follow the rules, and are not oblivious to their surroundings. It is intended for those who caused or contributed to what is already the worst wildfire season this Province has seen. And we have one more long weekend to get through.

Dear Outdoor User:

You naively parked in the tall dry grass, set up your campsite, started a fire, lit and tossed a cigarette, bombed around on your ATV, and/or left your stove unattended while you relaxed, explored, partied and/or headed off to bed. You either ignored or were willfully ignorant of the Province-wide fire ban and off-road driving restrictions.

Harrison Lake and its Harrison Lake East fire was one of the first wildfires of note this season. It happened over the July long weekend, it was human-caused, and it hit the media outlets hard. It was difficult to miss the column of smoke or the complete closure of the east side of Harrison while crews struggled to contain it. Shortly after the roads opened back up, the bans were tightened, the wildfire risk worsened, and the August long weekend rolled around, another forest fire was started – at Harrison East’s Bear Creek Rec site.

During August long weekend, it was impossible to ignore the blanket of smoke covering the Lower Mainland and most of southeast BC, irritating our throats and stinging our eyes. The days were hot, with temperatures over 30C, and for some reason, someone thought it was a good idea to start a fire at the Barrier Lookout, near the infamous Garibaldi Lake. The fire got out of control and grew to ~1,000 square feet before it was snuffed out thanks to the quick work of our overworked wildland fire crews. Imagine what would have happened if the winds had been a little stronger, or sparks flew a little further. Would a “controlled” evacuation of hundreds and hundreds of hikers and campers over Helm have been possible?

Also, on August long weekend, had you been driving back into town from the east, you would’ve been saddened to see a rising column of smoke (easily visible despite the smoke saturated air) at Jones Lake near Chilliwack, BC – and helicopters scrambling to drop water on the flames before they spread. There have been too many forest fires in BC so far this year and about half of them are human caused.

This rant isn’t meant for the average outdoor enthusiast. There are tons of people who are well prepared and know how to act in the outdoors. But, for every smart, knowledgeable, well-prepared outdoor user out there, there’s a halfwit standing in the middle of a rec site, twiddling their thumbs, wondering how to go about starting a fire during a fire ban. Or gassing up their ATV to go bombing up the tinder-dry FSR in contravention of the off-road ban. This was the case last long weekend, according to the BC Active Fires Map. A disturbing number of the red dotted ‘new’ fires were centered on rec sites and nearby FSRs, cited as ‘person’ caused.

Let’s be smarter about it over the September long weekend, yeah? You don’t need that open fire to enjoy camping this September long weekend.  The social media picture/video clip can hold off until the bans are lifted.

There’s a wealth of information available online to help plan trips accordingly:

Air Quality
Current Wildfire Situation
DriveBC (fire road closures)
Firebans and Restrictions
Provincial Parks Affected by Fire Restrictions
Report a Wildfire

What will it take for people to learn? On one hand, my thoughts on this follow a very slippery slope; you won’t learn until it’s too late (horses burned to death in the Chilcotins). You’ll ignore the rules and destroy the places we love until there’s nothing left but burnt trees and blackened forests, and then maybe you’ll learn. On the other hand, I’m hoping you will pay more attention and consider your actions before heading out this coming long weekend.


– Ashika

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