Editorial: Blatant disregard for wildfire hazard deserves harsher punishment

Is it time to bring in harsher punishments for starting a wildfire – however unintentionally? As we all watch with heartbreak, forests across Beautiful B.C. are burning out of control – destroying homes and businesses and threatening wildlife, livestock and more, while thousands of hectares of forests go up in flames

In fact, more than 35,000 British Columbians have been forced from their homes, evacuated to 11 emergency centers set up across the province, including in nearby Cloverdale.

Of the more than 650 wildfires in B.C. since the beginning of 2017, more than half are believed to have been human caused, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service. That means more than half of the wildfires were easily preventable.

Despite ‘extreme’ fire conditions and a widely publicized provincial campfire ban, there is a percentage of the population that displays a flagrant disregard for the good of the whole. These people will always do what they selfishly want to do, in this case, having a campfire or not making the effort to properly discard a cigarette.

Even locally, the fire department says it is getting roughly two calls a week about people burning in the Township.

The fine for being caught having a campfire can reach up to $1,000. Being caught tossing a cigarette can land you a fine of $575. But enforcement is tough, we hear.

The man who caused the McLure-Barrier forest fire in 2003 escaped jail time and was fined $3,000 for carelessly discarding a cigarette.

That fire took 73 homes and destroyed the sawmill, the region’s main employer. But unlike so many of the recent human-caused fires, the Barrier man admitted to his actions and spent the months following helping to rebuild some of the houses that burned.

Last week’s fire in Lake Country that destroyed eight large houses, is also believed to be human caused.

But a $3,000 fine doesn’t send a very strong message.

The blatant disregard too many are showing must be met with more severe consequences. Much like those who rioted in Vancouver were given stiff fines and sentences, even jail time, for their harmful actions, so too should those caught destroying our province, potentially costing lives, and devastating families.

It’s very much a me-first attitude that plagues us.

We can’t control Mother Nature — but we can control our actions.

In the 1970s and into the early ’80s, at Manning Park, a very potent- in your face- warning stood on the side of the road showing a cigarette being hung by a noose. The message was very clear. It likely was taken down because it was too shocking and too offensive in these politically correct, ultra sensitive times we live in.

But perhaps we are in need of a little shock. The province should lay the same heavy hand they held on the rioters on those who continue to snub their noses at the fire bans.

But you can play a role, too.

If you see a fire or irresponsible behaviour don’t hesitate to call 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on your cellphone.

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