We need to do more to stop forest fires

Fighting forest fires

Sitting in the lake in the Shuswap, we looked up to see a plume of smoke on the side of the mountain.

My heart sank. I remembered the year before in the Shuswap when we couldn’t see from one side of the lake to the other because of the smoke, and I didn’t want this to be a repeat of that.

So, we jumped onto the phone and called *5555 to report it.

My son’s friend works for the B.C. Wildfire Service and saw my sister-in-law’s name attached to the report. He called my son and told him they were being dispatched to the fire.

The next morning, I read on Castanet that the fire was out and I could see it on the (services fire) map. Looking up, we could see there was only a smoulder left.

With the heat that has rolled in, and more than 4,000 lightening strikes in the past week, you can see why some fires have started. Most, sadly, are human caused.

It does feel like we suffered far more in this last six years than before.

I have lived in the Okanagan my entire adult life and in 2003 the, Okanagan Mountain Park fire was the “fire of the century” but in the last six years, we have had three fire seasons larger than that one, with the loss of property and the loss of life.

We are getting warmer and dryer and with this climate change comes a greater need to mitigate and prevent these emergencies.

As the (B.C. Liberal) environment critic, I am acutely aware of what the government is doing and what more can be done to mitigate climate change and build climate change resilience. But what we are doing in our forests isn’t working and we need to have a holistic forest management plan with all the stakeholders at the table.

We also need to fight fires more aggressively.

There is a company based on Vancouver Island that will not work for the B.C. government and instead takes more than $4 billion of air firefighting equipment to Australia, Alberta, and California.

We should have these resources deployed in B.C. and should work with local companies to do so.

Why do we need to fight fires more aggressively? Here’s why: the fires last year released more than 218 megatons of greenhouse gas (GHG) or CO2 into our air.

To put that in context, that is almost three times all of B.C.’s annual GHGs and 100 times more than our LNG sector produces in a year.

Think about that. If we stopped one fire season, what better air we would breathe.

As we all know, when the smoke comes, our eyes burn, our lungs hurt and we stop going outside or enjoying our nature. Forest fires not only affect our forests but our physical and mental health as well.

We need fewer fires.

This is my call for us all to be vigilant, to always be on the alert. Report fires when you see them and do everything in your power to not start them.

Our land has dried out quickly, turning from green to brown. It is in a perfect condition for fire to start and spread quickly.

My question this week:

What do you think we should do about fighting the forest fires, and what will you personally do to help?

I love hearing from you, and I read every email you send.Email [email protected] or call my office at 250-712-3620.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and the Opposition critic for Environment and Climate Change, as well as Gender, Equity and Inclusion.  She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee for Finance as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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