© By Othmar Vohringer
As I write this Merritt, the country music capital of Canada, is shrouded in a cloak of smoke so thick that visibility has been reduced to a couple of miles. In addition the air is filled with the pungent smell of burned wood and grass. These are definitely not good times for people suffering from asthma.
Merritt is surrounded by a ring of forest and wildfires. To the north, south, east and west of our small picturesque town fires rage out of control. So far the fires have consumed several thousand hectares of grassland and forest. Fire bombers and firefighter helicopters fly over our town day and night filling up their water tanks in the Nicola Lake and then fly back to battle the infernos. Some of the wildfires are hard to access due to the steep terrain that even helicopters have difficulty flying in.
It all started off with a forest fire in Kelowna two weeks ago. That fire is now under control but still burning. Since then we had a thunder and lightening storm pass trough the area. The welcome moisture was quickly evaporated by the intense heat wave we experience and the lightening sparked more forest and grassland fires ending in all the fires we have today. The government reports that alone in our area there are about 150 small to large wildfires.
Several communities around Merritt have evacuation alerts in place and in few communities people have been told on shot notice to evacuate, leaving everything but the absolute essentials behind. Merritt I am happy to say is still safe from such drastic measures but given that the closest forest fire rages only a few miles outside town I am watching the sky and the news very carefully.
The weather is hot and its bone dry. Today I had to dig a hole in the garden and down to about two feet the dirt is dry as the dessert. You ought to think that these conditions make people more aware of the danger and therefore more careful yet I still see some people flick their burning cigarette stumps out of car windows. This makes me wonder just how stupid some people are. All it needs in these conditions and the high winds is a spark to explode into a raging fire within seconds. I keep watching and praying.
Othmar Vohringer Outdoors
Founding Member of Outdoor Bloggers Summit
Tags: Merritt, Forest Fires, British Columbia, Firefighters