EDITORIAL: Protecting our forests starts with you

Careless behaviour costs us all

Despite the wet, cold weather we endured this spring, July arrived breathing fire and we are all feeling the heat.

With roughly 200 wild fires raging throughout the province and 14,000 people forced to evacuate their homes, this year is already in the same league as 2003, which was a high water line regarding loss of hectares, natural resources, property and homes. It’s so bad that there’s been discussion about implementing a total forest ban if the situation worsens. Not to mention the state of emergency that’s already been declared.

Historically, Vancouver Island has managed to dodge the kind of devastation that has ravaged other parts of the province, but don’t think for one moment we are immune. A high number of urban centres on the Island are surrounded by stretches of forest that thrive metres away from clusters of homes. That’s the norm throughout much of the Capital Region, especially in parts of the West Shore, which means we’re one thoughtlessly tossed butt or careless campfire away from the kind of images burning through our screens every night.

Despite pleas from our local fire chiefs for smokers to exercise supreme caution and the campfire bans in place, there are those who still don’t get it. An alarming percentage of the fires being fought at the moment are tied to human causes, so the focus needs to be placed on all of us to be much more diligent.

There’s little point in debating the effectiveness of an $81 fine for throwing a butt out of your vehicle or the $575 charge under the B.C. Wildlife Act issued to a motorist in Abbotsford this week for doing just that. We need to take extra precautions that extend beyond boundaries to what goes on in our own backyards. Whether it’s a barbecue unattended momentarily, a circuit overloaded by a fan or a spark from a power tool, the odds of a disaster striking are greatly increased during extremely dry conditions.

So take a few moments to go over the fire plan in your home and ensure you have the necessities you need nearby in the event of a worst case scenario. Take a careful walk around your home and property and remove debris or overgrown vegetation that could fuel a fire. Sometimes a little extra effort is required to spare us from the unthinkable.

For the latest updates on forest fires throughout the province go to goldstreamgazette.com.