We humans are creatures of habit, and this weekend, even though so many of our habits have been disrupted by eight weeks of social distancing and staying home and complying with the province’s guidelines, we’re wired, it seems, to want to get out the tent or open up the cabin, seek out the great outdoors, or at the very least, make the prospect of summer feel real by gathering around a campfire.
Perhaps the best thing we can do is to approach any campfires this weekend with a sense of ritual and care-tending.
We’ve been asked to practice a degree of mindfulness and intentionality these past eight weeks about everything, from hand-washing to grocery-shopping to connecting with loved ones. While it might be tempting to use a burn session to blow off steam, right now, the opposite is needed. Sing in the shower with abandon. But burn with absolute care. We can glean even more personal meaning and pleasure from a small thoughtful fire than a thoughtless poorly managed one. Bonus: our personal enjoyment won’t result in damage to others.
Nearly half of all wildfires in BC are caused by human carelessness. In the SLRD, we’ve already experienced a fateful wildfire that started the day before the open fire ban went into effect, and that left a community badly impacted and several people without homes; another fire at Britannia Beach is currently under investigation. We know that wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense due to global conditions. We know that a severe wildfire season increases vulnerability to illness and death – an added pressure on our healthcare system and communities that we really don’t want to court. What is within our personal control is the size and safety of our campfires.
This week, I’ve been in conversations with our region’s Director of Protective Services, team members at BC Wildfire who have been working on the Magee Road wildfire, and local Fire Chiefs. Here’s what we all can do, to help our fire-fighting frontline workers this coming summer, starting with this weekend.
Pass the size test. Campfires should be small and contained. A campfire is not a bonfire! A campfire must be no larger than half a metre in height and half a metre in width, and should be in a proper fire pit or fire ring, at least three metres from trees, shrubs, structures and debris. Don’t light it up if it’s windy. And keep a bucket of at least 8 litres of water and/or a shovel close by. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/fire-bans-and-restrictions
Pass the sift test. When you are leaving a campfire, it should be cool enough for you to run your fingers through the bottom layer of ashes. If the remains of the fire are too hot for this, then the fire is not out, and it’s a potential danger to the environment.
Pass the Fire Smart test. Most single family homes in the SLRD are in potential wildfire areas. We all have a responsibility to review our properties and take measures that will offer some protection in the event of a wildfire. The Provincial Fire Smart program has some excellent, simple, cheap ideas that many people can implement themselves. These ideas include placing a wood pile away from the home; making sure that propane tank is situated a safe distance from the house; and clearing dead wood from the ground surrounding the house. More tips can be found on the BC Fire Smart website. Another source of advice is your local fire department. Preventative work before a fire occurs can make the difference between saving or losing a home. https://firesmartbc.ca
Pass the not-tricked-by-the-rain test. Finally, wild fires are a danger to life and property and are extremely expensive to fight. We have enough fires started by natural causes such as lightning strikes and trees blown on to power lines. We should try to ensure that there are no fires caused by human activities. The fire risk is still high through our region. We have had some rain but this should not lull us into a false sense of security: the forests are still very dry and fire will spread easily once started.
We are each other’s keepers. That doesn’t mean we’re obliged to police each other, so much as that we are the best source of safety and security for the people we share our homes, our neighbourhoods and province with, especially when we take care.
So let’s take care,
Chair, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District