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BEPPLE: We can try to fight wildfires, but Fort McMurray proves the need for fire prevention

Image Credit: Compilation/Jennifer Stahn
May 06, 2016 - 7:58 AM

It will be a long time before things get back to normal in Fort McMurray. No matter how many thoughts and prayers, no matter how large the donations to the Red Cross are. The damage is too great, the disruptions too long.

Picking up the pieces seems trite, when for many there are no pieces to pick up.

But for all the terrible things that have happened so far, there is hope. First, Fort McMurray showed how incredible its community is. Like the hospital staff who evacuated more than 100 patients, even as they would have had families and homes of their own they were concerned about. Like how quickly the entire city mobilized and left town, leaving no one behind. At a drop of a hat, towns around and oil sands workers' camps became evacuation centres.

The wider community, starting with Alberta and stretching across Canada, is scrambling to help.

Right now, everyone from Fort McMurray is running on adrenaline. It has carried them through evacuations, loss of homes and sometimes loss of livelihood too. Adrenaline can only last so long, and soon, for some, the nerves will start to fray. And then the rebuilding will begin. Maybe not exactly the way it was, but some likeness.

But when Fort McMurray rebuilds some things need to change. Otherwise another disaster is inevitable.

Fort McMurray is the largest climate change disaster Canada has seen so far.

As an incredibly rich country, we have resources to throw at the disaster. No lives have been lost. Everyone has been safely taken out. There's food and lodging for everyone.

But even as an incredibly rich country, we don't have enough resources to stop the firestorms. There's no way we can fight such massive forest fires. We may be rich enough to rebuild, but we'll never have the resources to fight mega fires.

British Columbia is another ticking time bomb waiting for a mega fire to happen. We have the same record temperatures. Our forests are full of dead pine. Forests abut towns and cities.

In the years after the pine beetle kill, Kamloops removed a million trees. And yet, at the edges of the city, like in Dufferin, Heffley Creek, and Barnhartvale, there are still many trees on the urban-forest interfaces.

It's time for the province to remove more trees on Crown land around Kamloops and other B.C. towns and cities. Climate change isn't going away anytime soon.

B.C., Alberta and rest of the province may have resources to get people safely out of forest fire disasters. We're wealthy enough to look after people who have lost everything. But there's no way we can fight massive fires. It's time to rethink urban forest boundaries. It's time for the B.C. provincial government to stop fighting forest fires and start preventing them.

Because try as we might, we can't fight forest fires the size of the Fort McMurray fire.

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

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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