Today is a day of hard cold reflection on history repeating itself. In 2003 we faced a monster fire in the Okanagan.
When it was over I think we chalked it up to a once in a lifetime event. That allowed us to ignore just how fragile our lives, our Eco-system and the world really are.
The Okanagan Mountain Fire of 2003 was left to burn for a day without resistance. The wind storm and outburst of fire in all direction proved devastating over two hundred homes were lost. It was a case of two jurisdictions the Province and the City wanting to manage it until the fire became unmanageable and made its own rules.
The other night the same thing. The lightning struck in the same general area as the one fifteen years ago. Lightning never strikes in the same place eh? Well it burned unattended for hours and is now a major blaze. What is to burn you ask? New grasses. Different species of trees and scrubs Mother Nature has been busy up there.
Our summer was sliding through the days in peaceful tranquility until a couple of nights ago. The sudden storm came as a surprise, its intensity was overwhelming and destructive. There are folks I talked to that were actually afraid and rightfully so.
Several fires are the result and the destruction will set us back once again to years of regrowing what is being lost. It also is a warning. The climate and the weather patterns are changing and we are ignoring the big picture.
The problem is not an increase of fire danger. The problem is there are far more people in a crowded area, building houses in a danger zone.
It not only has implications for wildlife but us as well. We build in forests, we pave everything and cut down too many trees so water just runs down hill on the paved roads and driveways flooding everything in the water flows path.
Lightning strikes hit across the valley starting all kinds of fires It is time to ask the question we already know the answer too. Why are these fires now so intense?
First they are threatening human inhabited areas creating a series of problems we haven’t considered. Peachland is in a troubled spot – it’s in a forested area with roads through stands of trees. And going north is really the only alternative. Summerland is in a precarious position with fires on both sides of the community. Naramata is in trouble with fires as well, and one road in and out. Not to mention if West Kelowna sees another fire the power grid has one operation network if it burns thousands are without basic power requirements. Provincial Governments of all stripes are either deaf or oblivious as to the consequences that would result from a catastrophic event of this magnitude.
I remember a couple of years ago the Oliver fire and the two converging blazes damaged several orchards when a strange wind phenomenon blew entire stands of trees over and blew the crops off other trees.
These are not freak storms anymore from a fire standpoint and we need a plan with two ingredients Political will and money. For years logged areas were slash burned and much of it left on the forest floor. We have scraps of left over wood and pine needles and pine cones building up critical mass.
It needs to be cleaned up especially in community interface locations, Dry forest full of highly combustible material is a time bomb waiting for a reason to explode. With the explosion will come other problems as endangered wildlife will show up in communities in an ever shrinking habitat.
We are looking at and fearing the symptoms of a serious problem that is going to become the single biggest problem. That being environmental imbalance. Ask this question.
Would you give your grand child a burned out car for a gift?
No, then why would we give them a burned out world?
What we have seen so far with all its damage, and fear, is but a shot across the bow if we don’t get straight with Mother Nature. We can no longer put the forest fire threat on the back burner.