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Posted: August 15, 2018

Time to close access to Crown land

e-KNOW Editorial

By Ian Cobb

Now that the provincial government has declared a state of emergency due to the almost 600 wildfires burning in B.C., it is also time to close the bush.

While the wildfire season of 2018 isn’t as bad as last year, when a provincial state of emergency was declared a full month earlier on July 15, we are still up to our chins in wildfires and concerns weigh heavy in almost all corners of the province.

It needs to be said that in the East Kootenay we have had few person-caused wildfires (knock on wood) and it needs to be pointed out. Residents who continue to access the backcountry have done a solid job of behaving and not lighting fires. Let’s keep it up!

There have also been some classic examples of rampaging human stupidity, where people have lit fires in defiance of the campfire bans, only to soon after find their faces filled with natural resource or BC Conservation Officers, with big fat fines to follow. Oftentimes it seems to be visitors who decide they are going to have a fire, and to hell with common sense. It’s their holiday time and camping isn’t the same without a wee bit of the ole crackle crackle snap.

One could editorialize until tomorrow arrives on that subject and how those who defy such important bans should be forced to pay for any costs associated with stopping and mopping up a wildfire. If it means they suffer under such a Sisyphusian yoke for the rest of their lives, so be it.

Our communities very lives are at the heart of all this.

One stupidly lit fire could devastate any one of our small towns with such speed and terror that the future course of that community could be a short or wildly altered one. All one has to do is take a look at Ashcroft or Cache Creek following the vast swath of devastation caused by the Elephant Hill fire last year for a glimpse at what might become ‘a yearly thing’ in B.C. if we don’t wise up. There are many people in those communities still completely screwed as insurance companies job them and provincial/federal support is basically nil.

A good way to quickly wise up is to seal off access to the backcountry when it is obvious we are once again heading into a lengthy hot spell with lightning and incremental growth in wildfires, such as 2017 and this year.

When the BC Wildfire Service is trying to keep on top of all the lightning-caused wildfires, it is blatant and foul piling on when people act life selfish nimrods and cause fires.

Sometimes it is innocent; a hot vehicle engine igniting some grass etc. That is merely another reason the backcountry should be closed off.

Yes, recreation and tourism take hits at the peak of the moneymaking season, but the hit won’t be fatal. If entire areas are burned away and closed off due to wildfire and recovery (such as what is happening at nearby Waterton Lakes National Park) and what will be happening more in Kootenay National Park, the span is too great for most small businesses to sustain.

So Premier Horgan and the B.C. government – close the bush – NOW. Please.

Cut the costs of continued growth of fire volumes, allow BCWS to catch up and, with apologies to the businesses that need Crown land access to operate, spare this province from unnecessary, human-caused disasters. The natural ones are keeping us busy enough.

And not only should you close the backcountry for the time being, it is high time a policy is enacted to ensure the closure of Crown land every time wildfire seasons appear to be along the lines of 2003, 2017 or 2018.

Then it will be up to your government, and the federal government, to provide some financial help to municipalities as they race to create fireguards etc. around them to reduce wildfire risks.

And finally, British Columbia, Canada and the rest of her provinces, must begin to beef up wildfire combat operations because it seems like this is going to be an annual problem.

That means more investment in aerial and ground operations and in manpower.

Wildfire season is a time when using common sense is the most important thing and thinking politically is the absolute worst thing to do.

In closing, we want to shout out ‘thank you’ to the BCWS and Parks Canada firefighters and to those who have arrived from elsewhere in the country and internationally to help out.

Let’s be smart folks. It may be a joke but don’t even fart in the woods right now.

If you love your nearby backcountry escapes, and most folks living in this glorious province have their favourites, then show it by staying away.

Show it by not lighting fires or fooling around with fireworks; show it by immediately reporting those you see playing with fire – and record them with your phones for proof later.

This is a time to be smart; not selfish or reckless or stupid.

That goes for you too, Victoria.

Ian Cobb is editor/owner of e-KNOW

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