Only the youngest among us will not be familiar with the slogan: “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
That famous tagline was associated with Smokey the Bear for more than five decades starting in 1947. Before that Smokey’s catchphrase was: “Care will prevent nine out of 10 forest fires.”
The good news is, in the past 10 years, the average percentage of wildfires in B.C. caused by human carelessness was not anywhere near 90 per cent. The bad news is, it is still a whopping 42.5 per cent.
The other good news is, 2019 is not shaping up, so far, to be as nearly as bad as 2018. There had been 454 fires as of July 6 compared to 560 at the end of last June. That is about 80 per cent.
Over the last two weeks we have seen thunderstorms roll through the province that have ignited several fires including in the local area. Lightning remains the number one cause of fires and there is not much we can do about that, prevention-wise, except hope Mother Nature gives us the rain we need to limit the extent of the damage.
Obviously this year’s wildfire season has a long way to go, but let’s say for the sake of argument we stay on the current track of 80 per cent of last year. If so, we would see approximately 1,600 fires this year, or another 1,150. If roughly 40 per cent of those were caused by people, that is around 460 completely preventable fires.
That is 460 fires that could potentially threaten or destroy communities, cause evacuations, destroy timber and close mills impacting families’ livelihoods, kill wildlife, initiate environmental degradation, destroy recreational areas we all enjoy, and other impacts.
There are numerous ways human activity can start wildfires, such as open burning, the use of engines or vehicles, dropping burning substances such as cigarettes, or any number of other human-related activities that can create a spark or a heat source sufficient to ignite a wildfire. In other words: preventable.
The Interior News implores everybody to take care, observe open fire prohibitions and restrictions, learn about the risk mitigation steps you can take through the B.C. Firesmart program, and practice good vegetation and fuels management.
To paraphrase old Smokey, “Care will prevent four out of 10 forest fires.”
Would you really want to have all that devastation on your conscience?