As of Aug. 3, the fire danger rating was “high” in much of the Kamloops Fire Centre. (BC Wildfire image)

As of Aug. 3, the fire danger rating was “high” in much of the Kamloops Fire Centre. (BC Wildfire image)

Column: ‘Tradition’ shouldn’t take priority when fire danger rating warrants campfire ban

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

I’m not as fond of the smell of campfires as I used to be.

I used to associate the smoky aroma of a wood-fuelled campfire with vacations or weekend getaways involving stays at various campgrounds, with warm memories of times spent exploring Wells Gray and Jasper, or numerous visits to and hikes around Revelstoke. In the majority, if not all of those outings, there was some campfire cooking going on that included me accidentally turning marshmallows into tiny tiki torches.

Today, though I’m not opposed to campfires (or campfire cooking), the smell triggers different thoughts and feelings. This is a direct result of last summer’s climate-change fuelled heat dome and the more than 1,600 wildfires that occurred in B.C. alone, burning some 869,000 hectares. Homes were lost, properties were scorched, there were numerous evacuation alerts and many people received evacuation orders, having to leave their homes and hope they’d have something to return to. The air quality was often terrible, the thick smoke making it uncomfortable, and certainly unhealthy, to breathe. Some mornings we’d wake up to find chunks, actual chunks of wildfire debris, on vehicles, roofs, etc.

I don’t think what we experienced last summer is something anyone wants to go through again, though we may not have a choice. But there are things we can to do help prevent wildfires which, sadly, are often human caused. One seemingly easy one is a ban on open burns, including campfires.

Thankfully, we haven’t experienced the same wildfire activity we did last year in the Kamloops Fire Centre (there were 459 fires between April 1, 2021 and March 28, 2022). However, we’ve still had wildfires, including the Nohimin Creek wildfire near Lytton that began on July 14 and, as of today, Aug. 4, is at 3,700 hectares.

It is on this thankfully cooler day that a campfire ban finally comes into effect in the Kamloops Fire Centre (KFC).

Read more: Campfire ban goes into effect later this week in Okanagan-Shuswap

Read more: More open burning restrictions coming into effect for Okanagan-Shuswap

I know I’m not alone in wondering why not sooner?

The campfire ban was announced just after the B.C. Day long weekend.

”Camping is a long-standing tradition in this province,” read a media release from the KFC and the province. “The B.C. government recognizes that people also enjoy having campfires, so it takes any decision to implement a campfire ban very seriously.”

Interestingly, the exact same wording was used when the province announced a B.C.-wide campfire ban on July 28, 2021 – a day or two before several of the summer’s wildfires of note, including the Lytton fire, were sparked.

Despite my love of the outdoors and spending time with loved ones around a campfire, when weighing “long-standing tradition” versus temperatures which, in the province’s own words, had us “experiencing hot and dry conditions and fire danger ratings… generally ‘high’ or ‘extreme’ throughout the fire centre,” a decision should have been easy and immediate.

I don’t know if a campfire has ever sparked a wildfire in B.C. I hope one never does due to poorly timed serious decisions.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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