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Editorial: Prevention of wildfires depends on all of us

The wildfire season has started on Vancouver Island
The Coastal Fire Centre are looking ahead to the wildfire season on Vancouver Island. (Phil McLachlan – Western News)

The wildfire season has started this year as BC Wildfire Service crews have already responded to several fires in the Coastal Fire Centre.

This includes a blaze near Gold River, which is believed to be human-caused.

The early start to this year’s fire season is disturbing. If conditions this early in the spring are already allowing for wildfires, what will happen during the hot summer days of July and August?

Wildfires have taken a toll in this province in recent years and there are plenty of areas where the devastating effects of previous wildfires can still be seen.

While the 2020 and 2019 wildfire seasons were quieter than anticipated, the wildfire seasons of 2017 and 2018 devastated much of the province. In 2017, more than 1.2 million hectares were burned and in 2018, more than 1.35 million hectares were destroyed.

Those who can recall the 2003 wildfire season will remember wildfires close to major communities. That fire season, during a drought year, resulted in the largest evacuation in British Columbia’s history.

Wildfires are not only destructive; they are also expensive. The cost of the 2017 fire suppression efforts was more than $649 million and the cost of the 2018 firefighting efforts rang in at more than $615 million.

While lightning-caused fires account for some of the province’s destruction each year, the reality is that many fires are the result of human activity. A carelessly discarded cigarette or an abandoned campfire can cause a massive fire, especially if conditions are dry.

Fire safety is important, and it is everyone’s responsibility. It is far easier to prevent a human-caused wildfire than to deal with the damage once a blaze has started.

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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