British Columbia wildfire threatens life and livelihood


Of the approximately 1,500 wildfires that British Columbia has seen so far this summer, one of the most affected areas was the Kamloops Fire Center area in the interior of southern BC, including Okanagan. .. Locals shared their experiences of devastation and evacuation as about 270 fires continued to burn vigorously.

Cathy Wild lives in a trailer park in a residential complex in the Okanagan Indian Band Reserve, northwest of Vernon, British Columbia.

“The wind was changing … so they didn’t know what would happen, so I packed my car for almost a week or more and sat a little on the edge,” Wilde said in an interview.

“I packed as much clothes as I could, and I packed air mattress bedding, pillows, hiking boots, and personal belongings that I wanted to keep in case the place burned down.”

She checked the website for evacuation orders for days. Nature gave her a message when she drove Swan Lake the night she evacuated.

“The sky turned red from smoke and the flames that reflected it. And the lake looked like blood …. I had a fire 30 years ago when I lived in the valley here. , This was never like this. Never, “Wild said.

That Friday night, on August 6, her landlord arrived at around 11:30 pm and announced that it was time to go.

“It was so cruel and crazy … I was sucking in debris,” she said, saying that the ashes from the fire were like snow. “Well, that was how it felt when the snowstorm struck, but it got stuck.”

“Smoke, ash, and flying debris were absolutely worse than you could see the flames. It was so bad that I couldn’t stand being outside.”

Wild stayed in Vernon for a few days with his friends, and the rain she prayed for arrived, allowing her to go home.

“When it rained, things were pretty calm, but there wasn’t enough rain to put out the fire, so the fire is still burning. [Ash] I blew into the house through the seams of the windows. “

Relocation from “Sumokanagan”

British Columbia has had 1,462 fires since April 1st this year, with 268 still burning as of the evening of August 10th. This includes 21 in the coastal area, 6 in the northwest, 57 in the Prince George area and 86 in the Kamloops area. 64 in the southeast and 34 in the Cariboo region. Among them, 816 was suspected to be caused by lightning, 468 was caused by people, and the rest were unknown.

From April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, the total combustion area so far for this year has exceeded 650,000 hectares as of August 9. Last year. The largest of these was a 77,102-hectare fire on Lake Sparks, northwest of Kamloops, which began on June 28.

In many areas, air quality is poor for weeks. For hair stylist Amber Roberge, that was almost a month ago.

“I bought an air purifier. It wasn’t enough because my lungs were hurt and I had to leave,” Roberge said in an interview.

“They used to call it summer, but now it’s the season to burn fire,” she added.

Roberge left for Vancouver with his mother on July 12, hoping that the situation would be resolved in a few days. Instead, I spent four weeks now, first with friends, then at a hotel, and then for a short-term rental. Things are only getting worse while they are waiting for better news from home.

“Everyone is talking about the move,” she says, from Okanagan, which was jokingly renamed “Smokenagan.”

“My friend is farming in Kelowna … and because of all the smoke, bees can’t even pollinate their farms. There are no bees, and their crops are almost empty. My brother is building outside and they are working in these dangerous situations, “Roberge said.

“I lived in Kelowna for the rest of my life, but I have never had a fire like this except in the horrific year of 2003 …. and for the past three years, fires have begun to occur every year. But my All the rest [previous] Twenty years was a perfect summer in Kelowna. “

Seeking better monitoring and response

Over the last decade from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2020, British Columbia faced an average of 1,352 wildfires, of which 562 (42%) were due to humans and the rest were due to lightning. Such fires consumed an average of 348,917 hectares annually and caused $ 265.3 million in damages. The 2017 and 2018 fires were particularly severe, consuming more than 1.2 million hectares and causing more than $ 600 million in damage each year.

Ian Madsen, senior policy analyst at the Frontier Public Policy Center and resident of Sally, British Columbia, said economic devastation includes the areas of transportation, mining, agriculture, and summer tourism. ..

“Many people go inside British Columbia, from the British Columbia coast, from Alberta to lakes, some mountains, wineries … and now there’s smoke everywhere people usually go. It’s intolerable because it’s there, “Madsen said.

“Damage alone will cost millions of dollars a month. And future tree loss to forestry. And there’s all the other economic activity, but that’s not happening.”

Fires are considered a natural process that occurs as part of many forest ecosystems and are usually caused by warm, dry-season lightning, but Madsen’s experience this summer provides better surveillance and stronger response. I believe I need it.

“I don’t know why you can’t see the smoke coming out where you have to look because hundreds of square meters are dry. And suddenly it … thousands of square kilometers. It doesn’t do anything until it’s huge, “he said.

“They need to change the whole approach, and they need to change their understanding of the essence of what they are dealing with.”

Lee Harding

Lee Harding is a Saskatchewan-based journalist and think tank researcher and contributor to The Epoch Times.