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BEPPLE: Fire season has arrived in the Southern Interior

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
April 15, 2016 - 8:50 AM

All the signs of summer are here.

I watered my lawn for the first time yesterday. It’s probably the earliest I ever have. I’ve already been watering my flowers for weeks. Next step, mowing the lawn. I know quite a few people who have already dragged out their lawn mowers, but I like to wait as long as possible. To me mowing the lawn is just outdoor vacuuming.

This is the earliest start to summer I’ve seen.

All the signs of summer have returned, including wildfires.

In the last week alone, there has been a grass fire on Ord Road, trees on fire on Barnhartvale Road, and a sawdust fire in Louis Creek. There are currently four active fires in the Kamloops Fire Centre region ranging from 13 to 93 hectares.

Summer has started and the fire season has too.

Before I watered my grass yesterday, the earth was powder dry. I have the luxury of watering to keep things green and damp. It’s not the case for out in the bush. Every day without rain, the forest gets drier and drier. Every warm day now means fewer days of the snowpack which is keeping things cool and moist up high.

The pilots for water bombers are training, and within a week or two, they will be making regular flights out of Kamloops.

I always feel a bit reassured when I see one of the firefighting planes take off. But then, it would be better if we didn’t see them quite so much. If we all worked to reduce the number of wildfires.

I love summer. I love almost all the signs that it’s back. But one sign I can do without is forest fires.

We can’t prevent the heat or get more rain this summer. We can’t reduce the number of lightning strikes. But there is a lot we can do to prevent unnecessary fires.

Backyard burning which gets away is a major source of man-made fires. Have hand tools and a water source. Don’t leave slash fires unattended.

Grassfires happen easily and quickly, from a cigarette butt or a spark of a motorbike. Grassfires spread quickly to surrounding buildings, bush and utility poles. When it’s hot and dry, butt out, and keep the bikes off the grass.

Thoroughly douse campfires (or don’t have them in the first place). Clear the area around the fire, use water and dirt to put the fire out. Check that it’s cold before you go to sleep or leave the site. My suggestion is to get out to a campsite now, and get your fill of campfires. Once summer is upon us, they’re sure to be banned.

Report fires. Fires travel tremendously fast. I lived in Salmon Arm in 1998. It took less than an hour for the fire on Fly Hills to explode, then race across the Salmon River valley and get to the top of Mount Ida. Multiple buildings burned and half the town was evacuated. Then in 2003, I was living in Kamloops during the Louis Creek fire. The fire on Strawberry Mountain above Rayleigh was equally fast.

Forest fires may be a sign of summer, but it’s a sign we can best do without, especially close to towns and cities. Preventing forest fires and reporting them is the best defence.

Summer is here, fire prevention season is too.

— Nancy Bepple is a recovering politician and local news junkie. She expects she will never recover from her love of the banjo.

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