Monday fires reminder of precarious position

There is no doubt that our Cowichan Valley’s volunteer fire crews are the heroes of this story.

On Monday afternoon a fire broke out near the golf course on Highway 18, just outside of Duncan.

While crews from multiple local volunteer fire departments raced to try to contain that blaze, which put smoke into the air so thick that visibility was near zero and fire burning on both sides of the highway shut the road down completely, some had to break off to address a second fire.

This second bush blaze flared up near Osborne Bay Road and Escarpment Way just outside of Crofton.

The Highway 18 fire is the result of a strange case of a downed utility charging a fence.

But such a cause is not the norm in the more than 200 fires burning right now across the province.

Some, of course, have been caused by lightning strikes.

But unfortunately, there are all-too-often villains in these fire tales – people who start the blazes due to carelessness or malice.

The province has been doing everything it possibly can to drill into people’s heads that it is tinder dry, as we haven’t had any significant rainfall in months.

There has been an unprecedented campaign to try to hammer home the message that smokers are not, under any circumstances, to flick their cigarette butts out of car windows onto the kindling roadside grass, or to drop them into mulch along sidewalks.

Yet there are still people too obstinately stupid or self-involved or both to get the message:

this is a dangerous action that could have calamitous effects for whole communities.

Until now we have been lucky on the wildfire front. The closest we’ve gotten has been the smoke that obscured the skies for a few days from wildfires in other communities.

But Monday’s fires should shatter any false sense of security people have been harbouring. We cannot trust to luck.

We must be vigilant. Don’t toss your cigarette butt – the littering is gross anyway. Do not use power tools or other equipment that may hit a

stone and spark. Do not light a campfire.

If you don’t need to be out in the woods on your ATV, leave it in the garage. There’s a good reason that governments close the gates on their trails when things get too dry.

Even though Monday’s fires in Cowichan were not person-caused, but were rather the result, in one case at least, of downing lines, we cannot take our safety for granted. We cannot take for granted that we can just carry on as we would if we weren’t in a drought.

We must use our heads.

Cowichan Valley Citizen

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