It’s a question that gets asked at this time every year, without fail.
What is it going to take to get it through to people that they need to be more careful in regards to preventing wildfires?
All of the western provinces moved up the official start date of wildfire season to March 1 a few years ago to better reflect what was occurring and to have more resources available sooner.
Of course, this may not have been as necessary if there were more people out there that took the responsible vector and used common sense when going out in the backwoods, off camping and when driving out on the highways.
Yes, I’m talking to you people that are still tossing butts out of their vehicle windows plus the all-terrain owners that seem to care less about where and how they drive than how much they spend on beverages and snacks.
Alberta has yet to be hit hard this spring by what has become an annual ritual the last few years. Although, that may have more to do with the snow and cooler weather in the past couple months, which limited the number of opportunities for people to hit the outdoors.
However, for our neighbours to the west, it’s already been a frantic start to the season with at least three big blazes being fought in the last few weeks, complete with evacuations and a ton of resources used.
Fortunately, there has been very little loss of property and no human lives lost.
Sadly, all three of these fires have been determined to be human caused. That’s not to say any of these were started intentionally, but regrettably it shows that there remain some members of the public that don’t take the time to think about what their actions may create.
In addition to all of the inconvenience for travellers, putting in to force all of the emergency response personnel and all of the potential danger those people and others are exposed to, most provinces are now beginning to demand repayment of at least some firefighting related costs from those that are determined to have caused the blaze.
One man in British Columbia is experiencing just that at the moment, having been ordered to pay more than half a million dollars for causing a 2012 wildfire west of Kamloops.
Labelled as the Pavillion Lake fire, it began in early April as a controlled burn on the man’s property that wasn’t extinguished when he left the area. A full month later, provincial wildfire crews were able to contain the fire after it had consumed over 345 acres (140 hectares).
Initially, the man was ordered in 2017 to pay the full cost of the suppression efforts at nearly $922,000. That was reduced in an out-of-court settlement last month after the man launched an appeal.
Now while this is only the latest example of a human caused wildfire being prosecuted, it likely will not be the last and do you really want to be the next one to wind up paying for the huge battle? Or even possibly winding up behind bars stemming from a criminal conviction?
Authorities have considerable resources that can be used to determine the cause of a wildfire and with technological innovations, they now also have various ways to figure what and/or who started it all.
The tremendously devastating fires that destroyed Slave Lake and areas of Fort McMurray were both human caused, though the Slave Lake blaze was determined to be intentionally set.
Very seldom are these fires declared as arson, but even the accidental lighting of what turns into a wildfire can lead to being found financially responsible.
It is rather easy to avoid all of those charges.
Never toss butts from smoking out the vehicle window or throw it on the ground in an attempt to stomp it out. The butt or ashes from it can easily ignite dry grass or get stuck in moss that can smolder for days or weeks before bursting into flame and lighting up the trees or field.
When out in the woods or campgrounds, properly extinguish any fires and ensure they are completely out before leaving. In addition, use a suitably contained area for any campfire and watch for ashes that may fly out.
As for the ATV/motorbike users, the first thing is to respect the area you are in and stick to marked trails when available. Have a plan for going riding, try not to go alone and have a well-maintained ATV/motorbike. That also means checking often for any brush, grass or other potentially flammable items that might get stuck around the engine or exhaust systems, heating up then falling off and starting up a blaze.
So, here’s to enjoying the summer in the outdoors and not having to pay for it later.
But that is…just an observation.