Last week proved to be a scary reminder of the 2018 wildfires for several residents in the area. For those, like me, who had not witnessed the 2018 wildfires, last week was a small insight into the devastation that the wildfire caused two years back. Terrifying photos and videos emerging from Lytton, added to the feelings of dread.
First, hats-off to all those who continue to fight the fires, hats-off to the families who not only are scared for themselves but also for their loved ones who are part of these firefighting crews and hats-off to the resilient residents who continue to find hope, who continue to forge stronger relationships and foundations through and despite wildfires.
However, despite knowing the devastation, despite seeing it through the media, it is shocking that a majority of wildfires early in the season are caused by humans rather than by lightning. Things like fireworks in dry areas, fireworks despite prohibitions, unattended campfires, sparks from tools and machines, etc. can cause fires.
As of July 8, a total of 16 fires across the province were human-caused while 12 were lightning-caused. So far in this fiscal year, there have been a total of 812 fires that have burned a total of 124, 585 ha across the province alone.
Recently, on a podcast called Green Dreamer, I heard a conversation with Environmental Historian Stephen Pyne on the importance of fire and how humans have abused the fire to the extent that we are now scared of it. It is a long, interesting talk on reckoning with the cost of unbounded burning but the moral is that humans are responsible for turning fire into its scary, unbounded form. Over the several months I have been in the North, I have heard a lot about good burning or essential burning. Initially, I thought it was crazy to burn in a region that is so prone to fires. It was my ignorance but through conversations with the local community forests and community members, it quickly became clear what and why “good fire” is essential.
Fire is considered the basic, the most primal change agent that helps renewing forests; from opening up the forest floor to sunlight signalling new growth, to releasing nutrients trapped in the forest floor.
So what has gone wrong? Why are wildfires becoming more and more devastating than renewing?
Us, humans is what’s wrong. Increasing green house gases, increasing pressure on earth’s natural resources, increasing temperature of earth’s core and the acute rise in global warming are all causing imbalance in nature, igniting fires, spilling out floods, leaving regions arid, dry and drought-ridden.
Most problems we are seeing these days, circle back to us and how we interact with our environment. We have been takers for far too long and are just not giving back enough. It is time to give back. Where would you start? Somewhere, anywhere really. Starting to give back, planting just one tree, not creating excess trash, taking care of our surroundings during dry hot weather, are just a few things we can start doing.
Until then, stay safe everyone for natural or man-made fire still has the capacity to burn through everything we love and know. So, stay aware, stay safe.