Fire starters must face hard consequences

Sirens shattered the silence of the night Monday as I was toddling off to bed, and it wasn’t just the single lone wail followed by the chorus of coyotes responding.

Sirens shattered the silence of the night Monday as I was toddling off to bed, and it wasn’t just the single lone wail followed by the chorus of coyotes responding.

The eerie, pulsating song of emergency vehicles speeding by in the distance was repeated again and again as they swept up Westside Road, dispatched to douse flames in Bear Creek Canyon in Bear Creek Provincial Park.

I didn’t realize that at the time and fell asleep blissfully unaware that gusty winds from the wrong direction could wreath me in smoke, if not flames.

The next morning was another story, as I could clearly see a pall of heavy smoke drifting over the lake from the area of the point where Bear Creek empties into Okanagan Lake.

Choppers were bucketing the flames, but the fire was heading our way, so it was difficult not to be concerned.

With the exception of one single devastating rainstorm, August has been one of the driest on record, and that didn’t change as a strong high pressure system held into the beginning of September, when normally temperatures cool down because of shorter days and other seasonal changes.

Grape growers are confident it’s payback from Mother Nature because spring was late and early summer unseasonably cool, slowing the ripening process.

Whatever the reason, wildlands around us are so dry and the sun so hot that there’s reason to be extremely concerned about the danger of wildfire, at a time of year when our concerns are normally over.

Human-caused is the verdict of authorities investigating the cause of this week’s conflagration.

But to take that a step further, it’s likely the cause was a fire lit by partiers in the area who did not, obviously, feel there was any need for them to undo what they’d done by lighting a fire, or someone discarding a lit cigarette.

It’s an attitude we need to take very, very seriously, and figure out how we can change it.

I was appalled and amazed at reports during the hot, dry weather of late August that people were leaving campfires all over the province without bothering to put them out.

As a society, somehow we’re not educating people about the potential of such actions, and we must do so.

But, first, we need to ensure there are severe penalties and the enforcement to give teeth to legislation, for irresponsible use of fire-starting materials.

Then, we must begin with youngsters in school, and bring home to them that they must respect the use of fire or face the consequences.

Aside from the property damage they do, wildfires kill, both people and animals, and more of them are caused by people than natural occurrences, such as lightning.

Next week, hunting season for deer opens in the Okanagan, so there will be more people out in the forest.

If they’re responsible, that’s a good thing, because more eyes helps to prevent fires from getting out of control, and can help at fingering those who are being irresponsible.

Local conservation officers warn that they’ll be out there checking to ensure everyone is behaving safely and not carrying loaded firearms in vehicles, shooting from the road or night hunting.

Expect to be stopped in road checks at some point during your hunt.

This is also the time of year when hungry bruins are foraging in neighbourhoods to fatten up for their big sleep.

So make sure you clean up any ripe fruit on or falling from trees, garbage, barbecue grills and pet food so you’re not attracting them to your property.

Dry conditions in the forest mean they are hungry so be prepared to find them where you hike or even in your yard, if you’ve attracted them with the aroma of food.

Clean up all possible attractants or you could be charged and face fines.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.



Kelowna Capital News