Letter: Disconnect between smokers and wildfires

Consequences of lighting a wildfire have to go way up.

To the editor:

I am constantly reminded of the disconnect between the raging fires, the millions spent, the burned out homes and businesses and the driver in front of me with the cigarette hanging out the window.

The potential to cause financial loss and social upheaval, exists with every puff and the eventual flick to the dry grass at roadside. Yet, it continues unabated, while the mobile arsonist cruises down the highway, oblivious to the rising column of smoke in the rear view mirror.

In times past and under similar perilously dry conditions, forest roads were chained off and no access was allowed to anyone. This meant logging crews, campers, even hikers were banned as even the slightest spark from a motorcycle exhaust, a spark from a chainsaw blade on a rock etc. had the potential for millions of dollars in devastation.

We seem to have lost the perception of just how dangerous our present situation is and the provincial government is just now stepping away from its polite “man-made fire” explanations on the news, to state that they are looking for the culprit. For the firebug to drive home to his/her comfortable home or apartment and casually leave behind the victims with no home, income, lost stock and lifestyle, is incomprehensible.

Clearly, there needs to be accountability and consequences more in keeping with the tab it takes to put out the fire and rebuild the lives of those affected. Forfeiture of home, property and future income needs to be considered/levied against those who just don’t connect with the scope of their irresponsibility.

As smoking is a potent addiction, perhaps a stiff deposit for the return of the cigarette butts could be considered. The thought of throwing away a $5 cigarette butt might be an inducement to keep it in the car ashtray to be returned. Further, it might help to build a ‘war chest’ of funds to offset the horrendous loss of millions in firefighting costs.

It is understood that smokers are not responsible for all forest fires, lightning does play its part and always has. However, the large blackened sections along the roadside and at forest trailheads is a no brainer as to the cause.

Personally, I have no compunction in calling 911 to report a driver flicking ashes or a cigarette butt out the window and do so with alarming regularity.

The time has long passed for pleasant forgiveness and a “don’t want to get involved” mentality. This is a size Grade A Large emergency and will only get worse with indolence on our collective parts. Your home could be next.

Brian R. Mellis,

West Kelowna