Thomson: Continued diligence needed on fire safety

Smoke is filling the skies, even in parts of B.C. that don’t normally see much fire activity.

There’s no escaping the reality of the wildfire situation in our province right now.

Evacuation orders and alerts have people scrambling to safety or preparing themselves to do so. Smoke is filling the skies, even in parts of B.C. that don’t normally see much fire activity.

Folks here in Kelowna might be used to the sight and smell of summer smoke, but in places like the Lower Mainland, it’s an eerie and unusual experience.

No matter where you live in B.C., your help is needed to prevent even more wildfire activity. The hot, dry weather conditions continue to present challenges to our firefighting crews, and the hazard rating remains ‘extreme’ in many areas.

Though it may seem a tiresome message, we can’t caution people enough to be extremely careful out there. That carelessly-tossed cigarette butt can put people’s lives and homes in danger. Campfire bans have also been implemented across the province, and it’s imperative that people follow the rules. If you see a wildfire or suspicious activity that could cause one, call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on your cell. You can also report online at www.bcwildfire.ca.

Those who fail to abide by the Wildfire Act, including open burning restrictions, can face a $345 fine. Anyone who causes damage to Crown forest or grass land through arson or recklessness can be fined up to $1 million or spend up to three years in prison.

You’re also encouraged to look after your own health, given that some regions have seen air quality advisories issued. If you see or smell smoke in the air, it’s probably best to avoid strenuous outdoor activities– especially for those of you with chronic underlying medical conditions. Staying indoors and in air-conditioned spaces helps to reduce your exposure to fine particulate.

Exposure is particularly a concern for infants, the elderly and those who have underlying respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart disease. You can check the status of your area at www.bcairquality.ca.

All of these measures help support the firefighting crews and first responders, who are working tirelessly to keep people and property safe during this challenging time. I’d like to thank the dedicated men and women from B.C. and Ontario who are putting their own lives at risk on the front lines.

This wildfire season has already claimed the life of one member of our firefighting family. John Joe Phare, a contract tree faller, was killed while working on the Old Sechelt Mine wildfire. I’d like to extend my deepest sympathies to his family, friends and many colleagues.

This tragedy serves as a reminder of the inherent dangers associated with fighting wildfires—as well as the need for all British Columbians to do their utmost to prevent them in the first place.

Please do your part. Report wildfires and remember that campfires, open fires and fireworks are banned throughout B.C. Let’s all work together to protect our province, our people and our livelihoods.

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