Opinion

Thomson: A safe summer equals a great summer

As we kick off the summer season, we look forward to taking advantage of the many outdoor recreation opportunities available in Kelowna and throughout the Okanagan.

In my view, nothing beats a day with a boat in the water and a fishing rod in hand.

But sometimes when we’re caught up in the fun of summer with the ones we love, we forget about the dangers that exist in our forests and on our waters.

Most Kelowna residents don’t need to be reminded of the destruction that wildfires can pose, even though more than a decade has passed since the devastating 2003 fire season. But a refresher on fire safety never hurts.

Grass fires are a big concern for our local firefighters. A carelessly-tossed cigarette butt can quickly turn into a significant blaze that spreads to neighbouring property or forested areas.

It’s wise to ensure cigarettes are fully distinguished and disposed of properly.

Careless use of campfires is another serious problem, and one of the leading causes of forest fires.

Prepare your campfire by removing all leaves, twigs and other flammable material from the area.

Choose a proper fire pit or make a ring of rocks at least three metres from trees, shrubs, structures and debris.

Don’t leave a campfire unattended, and keep a pail of water close by at all times. Be certain your campfire is completely extinguished before you go to bed or leave the area. Pour water on the fire and douse the site thoroughly.

Did you know there are also ways to “FireSmart” your home and agricultural land? There are great resources on the Wildfire Management Branch’s website, www.bcwildfire.ca. Check them out, to ensure you’re doing what you can to protect your property in the event of a wildfire.

On our waters, drowning is a real concern. A review of drowning deaths over the past five years shows that many victims are unfamiliar with the waters involved and therefore don’t see the risk or underestimate it.

Those risks can include such things as unexpected currents, steep and sudden drop offs, or unusually high water levels because of heavy rains or late spring runoff.

In a fast-flowing river, six inches of water can sweep a person downstream and two feet can carry away most vehicles.

So first off, be aware of the water conditions. Check the weather forecast before heading out, and also do a visual inspection of the area. Never dive into unknown waters, and do not head blindly down a river or stream without knowing the water conditions further downstream.

Ensure your out-of-town visitors are informed of the dangers as well.

Always supervise children anywhere near water. Preschool-aged children can drown in only a few centimetres of water, and the drowning is often silent.

Proper supervision for children of this age involves always having them within arm’s length of a responsible adult.

For the boating and tubing lovers out there, always wear a properly-fitting personal flotation device when engaged in these activities.

It may be impossible to find a PFD and put it on, if you are suddenly thrown into cold or rough water.

And as much as you may enjoy that cold beverage, it’s a fact that alcohol and water-related activities do not mix. It impairs your judgment and coordination, just as it does behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Impairment by alcohol or drugs is also often a contributing factor in cases in which someone has accidentally fallen into water from shore.

Summer is a fantastic time of year in Kelowna and area. By observing some basic tips, we can ensure a safe, healthy and happy summer for all of us.

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