Monday, July 27, 2009

Where there is smoke there is fire

© Othmar Vohringer

When I walked the dog this morning I noticed that the valley of Merritt is covered in what appeared to be haze. Would I have not watched the news I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to it. The haze is smoke from the many small to large forest fires raging around Merritt.

For the past few months we have had exceptionally hot and dry weather with temperatures between 36 to 45 Celsius degrees (96 F to 113 F). The forests and fields are tinder dry. All it needs is a spark to ignite the landscape. The mountain pine beetle infestation British Columbia has experienced over the last few years has added to the problem as large tracts of forests consist of dead and dying pine trees.

At the beginning of last week the city of Kelowna, close to Merritt, had to be evacuated as a violent forest fire engulfing 300 hectares threatened to burn the city to the ground. Over 200 firefighters from around the province battled the blaze from the air and ground for almost over a week to control the fire.

A welcome heavy rainstorm on the weekend finally brought some much hopped for relive to Kelowna but fears to other regions. The lightening has caused more forest fires to the north, east and west of Merritt. The air is busy with airplanes and helicopters flying back and forth trying to be everywhere at the same time and keeping the fires under control.

So far Merritt is save. But one has to ask for how long? On the walk with my dog this morning a truck passed us by and the driver flicked a burning cigarette stump out of the window into a dry meadow. I run to it to stomp it out. This one little stump would have been all that was needed to start a fire. The constant wind would soon turn that burning cigarette stump into a large fire. Is it really possible that people have so little commonsense?

If you live in a dry and hot area follow these tips to prevent forest and grassland fires.

Obey all local regulations posted regarding open fires.
Do not leave easily combustible items such as gasoline and propane gas tanks exposed to direct sunlight for extended times.
Never discharge a still lit cigarette in the open. That’s what ashtrays are for. Make sure the cigarette is completely butted out.
After you finished barbequing extinguish the hot coal with a bucket of water. Make absolutely sure that there are no embers left burning.
Do not make campfires in nature as embers could be carried away by the wind. That is how the Kelowna forest fire got started that destroyed 300 hectares and nine houses.
If you camp outside always have water or better yet a fire extinguisher within reach of where you’re cooking.

3 comments:

Mel said...

Sorry to hear of the tough dry conditions in your area and all the fires. This is similar to conditions in the mountainous areas of Idaho on a hot, dry summer. Hope all remain safe around Merritt. Keep us posted.

SimplyOutdoors said...

Sorry to hear about so much acreage being burnt. I hope that your town, and your possessions stay safe, Othmar.

Matt said...

That is really sad, but I'm glad you used it as an opportunity to remind the rest of us to be careful.

I thought cigarettes were illegal in Canada (just kidding, but maybe they should be!)

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