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The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL -

What a dif­fer­ence a day makes. Mon­day, there was only one area of the prov­ince where the provin­cial forestry ser­vice was fore­cast­ing “very high” for­est fire risk in its new for­est fire in­dex.

By Tues­day morn­ing, 12 re­gions — in­clud­ing al­most all of cen­tral New­found­land and a good chunk of the area mon­i­tored in Labrador — were fore­cast to soon be at “very high” and three re­gions in Labrador were fore­cast as “ex­treme.”

The only area left in the prov­ince ex­pected to re­main at “mod­er­ate” was a sec­tion of the Great North­ern Penin­sula.

The re­cently in­tro­duced web-based ser­vice — you can find it here forestry/forest_­fires/ — is a great idea, be­cause you can see at a mo­ment not only what the risks are, but where ac­tive fires are burn­ing.

But the cur­rent fire fore­cast is only part of the story. With the most re­cent changes to the weather fore­cast for many parts of the prov­ince, re­duc­ing the chance of rain show­ers and fore­cast­ing con­tin­ued high tem­per­a­tures, it’s likely the fire risks will con­tinue to rise.

And that’s where you come in.

Right now, 162 for­est fires are burn­ing across Bri­tish Columbia, and manda­tory evac­u­a­tions have moved thou­sands of peo­ple from their homes. So far this year, the B.C. Wild­fire Ser­vice has had to deal with 572 fires, and while many have been started by nat­u­ral causes like light­ning strikes and have been fanned by wind, a whop­ping 258 of the fires that have been in­ves­ti­gated (and some are still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion) were started by hu­mans.

The causes in­clude cig­a­rettes thrown from mov­ing ve­hi­cles to unat­tended or smol­der­ing camp­fires to ATVS trav­el­ling over dry grass that flares from con­tact with hot ex­haust parts.

In Bri­tish Columbia, get­ting a han­dle on hu­man causes has meant stronger en­force­ment and higher fines in re­cent years — vi­o­lat­ing a camp­fire ban, for ex­am­ple, can cost you $1,100. That er­rant cig­a­rette butt? $575. Be­ing con­victed for start­ing a fire can carry a penalty of a year in jail and $100,000 in fines.

In this prov­ince, the fines are con­sid­er­ably lower.

But that doesn’t mean we can af­ford to be care­less. The temp­ta­tions are ob­vi­ous: a sum­mer day on a river fish­ing seems tai­lor­made for a boil-up on the fore­shore, and a camp­ing trip just doesn’t seem com­plete without an evening camp­fire un­der the stars, es­pe­cially as a hot day cools into a soft evening.

Just re­mem­ber that ev­ery­thing around you — the trees shoul­der­ing down to the river, the for­est sur­round­ing your favourite pond — can change for decades be­cause of a for­est fire burnover.

The hard part about pre­vent­ing hu­man-caused for­est fires is mak­ing peo­ple un­der­stand that a mo­ment’s care­less­ness can’t be un­done.

And no mat­ter how gen­uinely sorry you are about it af­ter­wards, it won’t make a whit of dif­fer­ence.

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