KAMLOOPS — The City of Kamloops put out a news release this week, giving people the latest on the Elephant Hill The wildfire which is slowly creeping towards Kamloops. The idea of the release was to tell people that while alerts were issued for areas relatively close to Kamloops, the blaze was still 40-odd kilometers away. At the same time, Fire Chief Mike Adams was telling people that things can change quickly, and not to get complacent.
Given how dry the grasslands are, and how quickly those fires can spread with the right wind conditions, it was a timely release, and couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s funny how people react to these things. A few comments on our Facebook page are a little surprising. One or two people said the City was fearmongering, and that a wildfire coming into Kamloops was never going to happen. And that if the fire did move towards Kamloops, it was only going to be a flash grassfire and would be easy to put a guard around.
Those people are obviously pretty ignorant of fire behavior. These people obviously don’t understand how fast those fires can spread. We saw it in 2003 on Strawberry Hill, when a discarded cigarette ignited the dry grass adjacent to the highway. The fire took only half an hour to get from the bottom of the hill to the top and spread towards Paul Lake and Pinantan. It forced the evacuation of Rayleigh and Heffley Creek, giving people virtually no time to get out. Look at this year, where the fires in Ashcroft might well have been caused by a burn of some sort getting away, leading to a fire that has now spread over almost 170,000 hectares. Ask the people in Boston Flats how fast that fire moved through the grass, burning virtually the entire trailer park. Ask the Wildfire officials, experts in dealing with these wildfires, how quickly a controlled burn went awry and created serious problems. While grass fires don’t pose the same problem with embers and create the same kinds of problems that Kelowna faced in 2003, don’t get it in your mind that they are easy to contain.
The City is doing the right thing in being prepared. It was only a week or so ago that people were asking whether or not we should be preparing for a possible evacuation. Now, the City reacts to that by suggesting we should always be prepared, and while there’s no immediate danger, we should not relax our guard, and that translates to some as fearmongering.
Boy, it’s hard to please everyone. A federal official in charge of the recovery efforts from the B.C. Wildfires has been here three times in a month and a half. And people criticize the government for not showing their faces. They seem to feel Justin Trudeau should be here. B.C.’s Forest Minister has been here assessing things. People seem to think John Horgan should be here. Give me a break. Being in the public eye is an interesting life. The most important thing is to realize that no matter how much you care, no matter how much you do, you won’t please everyone. So you simply do your best, and if at the end of the day, you can say to yourself you gave it your best shot, that’s really all you can do.