EDITORIAL: Smokey the Bear has it right

We’re definitely into a weather pattern already where we can no longer throw caution — or cigarette butts — to the wind.

Wildfires are starting to break out again, including on the Island.

Although this month has been relatively wet, it’s quite likely we will have very few days of precipitation from now until the end of August, in keeping with the long, dry summers that have become a seasonal pattern over the past few years.

Nobody wants a repeat — or even a pale imitation — of last year’s horrific wildfire season, which burned through enormous swaths of land in B.C. Some small communities were completely evacuated and large fires came dangerously close to significant population centres.

The vast majority of B.C.’s wildfire troubles, of course, impacted the Interior of the province. We on Vancouver Island were quite fortunate, other than dealing with smoke from those Interior fires, that it didn’t adversely affect us. That doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels.

It’s up to the public to be diligent in reporting any signs of smoke or fire immediately, before it spreads out of control. And it’s also incumbent on the public not to be stupid. That means you, smokers.

Smoldering cigarettes are still one of the leading causes of wildfires, next to lightning. The latter can’t be prevented but the asinine tossing of cigarette butts out the window can.

Dispose of them properly. That can’t be stressed enough, especially in the woods, but in the right conditions, just around town on the pavement can be as dangerous.

The need for caution extends well beyond smokers. While Category 2 open fires have been prohibited across most of Vancouver Island, campfires of less than half a metre are still allowed, for now. Following the Coastal Fire Centre’s guidelines for maintaining — and extinguishing — campfires offers our best chance to extend their use.

And be especially aware, if dirt-biking or off-roading in the bush, that your exhaust systems are in good working order. It doesn’t take much for a spark to catch and ignite a serious blaze when everything is tinder dry.

Some of this may sound elementary, but people are so defiant sometimes it’s scary.

If you see someone acting without regard to the possible consequences, be sure to tell them. It all starts with being conscientious and, as Smokey Bear has always said, “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

— Black Press

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