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Don’t be that guy or gal that starts a forest fire

Posted by on Jun 24, 2016

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“Please don’t start a raging forest fire in the woods this summer.”

This is the earnest request of the man charged with emergency preparedness for the region: Ryan Thoms.

Nearly 100 percent of the wildfires that burn close to town are started by people on the edge of the woods, he said in an interview in the forest at the Penticton Trails Fuel Management Project (read more about this in Ferns & Fallers magazine, coming out in July).

Here’s why. Fort McMurray 2016. Fort St. John 2016. And even the Wilde Road Fire in early May, 2016.

Fire season has come fast and furious to Western Canada this spring. Last summer, Powell River spent three days in a murky yellow haze, under smoke billowing from the Elaho Valley and the Lower Sunshine Coast.

While the coastal temperate rainforest burns differently than the boreal forest, Ryan has seen enough wildfires in his 12 years here to think fire prevention is a pretty great idea. And, it works.

“We shouldn’t just flap our arms in the air and panic [about city-sweeping fires such as Fort Mac’s,]” Ryan says, noting that fire season traditionally starts in late July or early August. “Most forest fires are preventable. No government ever has enough resources to deal with the big emergencies, so citizens really need to take responsibility for avoiding fires in the first place, and plan in advance to care for themselves, their children, their pets, elderly relatives and neighbours.”

What you can do for yourself (and others)

  • Check local fire regulations before starting any campfires, backyard burns, or land clearing burning. 

  • Never leave your fire unattended.

  • Fire and wind are a dangerous combination – always check the forecast before burning. 

  • Cigarette butts should obviously not get thrown onto the ground. 

  • Be extra careful around slash and dried grass with hot mufflers, sparks off machinery such as lawn mowers, chain saws, dirt bikes, ATVs and vehicles. 

  • Carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle when you’re in the woods is a good idea.

  • Use your shock over Fort MacMurray’s experience with fire to make an emergency plan for your family and your neighbourhood. 

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