Editorial: Preventing wildfires more vital than ever in 2020

We are truly our own worst enemies on this file.

We’ve been lucky so far this year in at least one respect.

A relatively cool and damp beginning to the summer allowed us to focus our worries on the COVID-19 pandemic, but now wildfires are once again becoming a primary concern as hot, dry weather settles in.

Raging wildfires and states of emergency became the norm over the last several years, as blazes ignited through the B.C. Interior, spreading smoke through the province and beyond. And Vancouver Island wasn’t immune either. While our fires didn’t reach the size and devastation of those across the strait, communities across the Island were no strangers to sitting on edge as flames crept close to homes and businesses, some even being forced to evacuate for periods of time.

This summer has seen a slow start to the fire season, but we’re starting to see worrying signs that our luck is changing. Here in Cowichan we saw brush fires on the hill below Cairnsmore seniors home in the heart of Duncan, and in a wilderness area west of Shawnigan Lake just last week. Over the long weekend, a wildfire was sparked by lightning on Green Mountain, north of Cowichan Lake.

But that last fire is the exception in one respect. The Coastal Fire Centre tells us that almost all of the fires they have been involved with so far this season have been caused by people. We are truly our own worst enemies on this file.

We still have COVID-19 looming over us, the last thing we need are wildfires sweeping our communities. Evacuating people and offering them temporary shelter is tough enough at the best of times, but consider what would be entailed if we need to do this during COVID. Gyms filled with rows upon rows of cots would most definitely not cut it when we need to keep a physical distance. While we’re sure solutions would be presented by hardworking officials and volunteers, our best bet by a long shot is prevention. Kind of like with COVID.

Also like with COVID-19, this requires buy-in and vigilance from every one of us. With travel options limited, more people than ever are enjoying our wildnerness areas right here at home, and we need everyone to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. That means no tossing of cigarette butts (which you shouldn’t be doing anyway because it’s littering, and yes, out your car window counts). Lighting only small fires as permitted, and making sure you have a way to douse the flames when you leave, or should you need to during an emergency. It means obeying when there are trail closures to motorized vehicles that can cause sparks. Maybe laying off the fireworks.

Let’s stick to one emergency at a time.

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