KAMLOOPS — The number of fires caused by discarded cigarettes is escalating, and there is no question that no matter how wildfires are started, except those caused by Mother Nature of course, the guilty should be punished, and punished severely.
Just in the past few weeks, the Elephant Hill fire and the fire at Martin Mountain near Monte Lake are both believed to be human caused. They are just two of many. One is believed suspicious in nature and is still under investigation, and one is almost definitely caused by a discarded cigarette. We had a fire on Rose Hill Road a week ago that is believed to have been caused by a discarded butt as well.
In 2003, two of the major wildfires in this area were caused by discarded cigarettes. It’s absolutely unbelievable that there are so many idiots who persist in just dropping their butts out the window. They drive along with their cigarettes hanging out the window, perhaps to avoid too much smoke for others, then when they finish, they just let the cigarette drop to the ground. I’m sure many do it without a second thought.
Remember too that there are few, if any, vehicles with ash trays in them anymore. So they don’t have a place to butt out. Some people have taken to having a water bottle half filled with water that they just drop the cigarette into to extinguish it. Good idea, but it's pretty gross, and if you forget the bottle, then what do you do? Just drop it out the window.
People hiking along trails light up a smoke, and when they’re done, just discard it. They may try to extinguish it, but in these tinder dry conditions, just one little spark is all it takes. We’re in a perfect storm this year. High temperatures, high winds and low humidity all combine to make conditions for a fire ideal. Then you deal with bad judgment on top of that. And you couple that with the wet spring that allowed the grass to grow tall, then become tinder dry. You wonder why people can’t see that. Are they just morons? That’s what you ask yourself. And if you admonish anyone for dropping a butt, it’s almost like inviting someone to take a swing at you. They become defensive, belligerent and make all sorts of excuses for their behavior. And there are no excuses.
So what do you do? Well, fine them heavily for sure. But first you have to prove they actually started the fire. Sometimes easier said than done. If they cause severe damage, they should be put in jail. Obviously if lives were lost, that’s a whole different scenario. But surely something has to be done to educate people of the dangers of these problems. For most people who start these fires, though, education is probably not the answer. If they’re ignorant enough to do it in the first place, they’ re too ignorant to learn by education. Tough love is the only way to deal with this. And if that’s what we have to employ, that’s what has to happen. The millions of dollars in damage caused just by these two fires alone, not to mention the danger to life, and the cost of fighting these fires, should in itself prompt some serious response. It’s time to lower the boom.