Over the past number of years BC and other western provinces have experienced a number of serious wildfires which have caused considerable damage and losses to community infrastructure and forest resources. There appears to be a tendency to blame this situation on global warming, which is highly subjective, however one must reflect on deeper issues.
The recent disaster in Fort McMurray is a classic example and may well foretell future occurrences of a similar nature. To date and to my knowledge there has been no information released regarding initial action on this incident other than it was reported at 4 p.m. To this one should offer the following questions:
1. Knowing the starting point of the incident what control agency was responsible for initial attack?
2. What was the time interval between reporting and initial action on the incident by the responsible agency? This is critical.
3. Was the initial attack aerial or ground and if aerial how soon was ground action subsequently undertaken?
Efficient wildfire control is contingent on two criteria: early detection and fast initial attack. Undoubtedly there are conditions which occur when fires sustain a rapid development which will defy quick suppression. However, despite the massive resources and technology currently available it is apparent that we are encountering far too many large incidents in comparison to earlier years. This must logically lead to the conclusion that there are substantial, broad problems within the current wildfire control system.
This default is not apparent to the majority of the general public who are uninformed concerning effective wildfire control but is patently evident to knowledgeable forest industry personnel. An exacting review of current wildfire control policies and procedures by an independent, objective panel is critical, otherwise further negative impacts to communities and our valuable forest resource will continue.
G.L. Benwell, Revelstoke
The writer was a BC forest ranger from 1963-79