Monday, August 03, 2009

The wildfires rage on

© 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

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SimplyOutdoors said...

I'll say a prayer for you as well, Othmar. I hope that fire stays well away from your homestead.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Smokers can be some of the most dangerous litterbugs on earth.

Good luck up there, Othmar. And don't hesitate to wear a mask. When California had 800-1000 fires going last summer here, the air was horrible, and I heard it was like a year of smoking cigarettes. Great!

Othmar Vohringer said...

Arthur – Thanks you for the prayer. The fires are still way off in the distance. The wind changed today and blows the fires away from Merritt. So we’re save for now.

NorCal Cazadora – Smokers are not the only irresponsible people, some of them anyway, it just always gets blamed on smokers, because they are an easy target. Over this past long weekend holyday the conservation officers caught several people (tourists) that had campfires going despite a total open fire ban and sign saying so everywhere. Lightening has caused most of the fires here, a smoker has started one fire or so they assume. Unattended campfires have started two fires and one fire started by a burning car. According to the news this morning there are over 1,500 wildfires in British Columbia as we speak.


NorCal Cazadora said...

Here in NorCal, it's easy to spot the smoker-started fires. They're the ones right alongside the freeway.

I just hate smoker litter. One day, I was shopping with my mom and sister and saw this very well-to-do older woman get out of her lovely car and drop her cigarette butt in the parking lot. You can pretty much be guaranteed this woman would not throw other trash out her car window, but she had no problem with a non-biodegradable filtered cigarette butt.

I said, "Excuse me, Ma'am, you dropped something." She stopped and looked around and said, "What?" I said, "Right there," pointing at the butt.

She growled at me.

I can only hope I made her think a bit.

Off topic, I know, but ya got me rolling!

Othmar Vohringer said...

I agree with you. I am a smoker too and so is my wife but we NEVER would even dream off disposing butts anywhere but in the ashtray.


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