Opinion: Fires carry a cost

Human-caused forest fires like the one this week in Chilliwack are a preventable waste money and a diversion of valuable resources

A small fire in the Chilliwack River Valley on Friday afternoon.

A small fire in the Chilliwack River Valley on Friday afternoon.

Quick action helped contain the weekend wildfire in the Chilliwack River Valley.

But it never should have started in the first place.

Although the cause of the 17-hectare blaze is still under investigation, it certainly didn’t occur naturally.

It was likely human caused, meaning the resources that were deployed to fight the fire – air tankers, helicopters, firefighters and police – were an unnecessary expense.

Every year millions of dollars are spent fighting wildfires.

Fortunately we’ve seen relatively few forest fires this year.

That wasn’t the case last year, which was marked by an aggressive fire season. Granted, most of those fires were caused by lightning, according to the BC Fire Service the most destructive fires were human caused.

All these fires take their toll, both financially and emotionally.

There were 2,500 people on the front lines at the height of last year’s fire season, and more than 1,144 homes were evacuated.

The Chilliwack River Valley fire saw no evacuations. But that was cold comfort to the many homeowners in the valley and in Ryder Lake who watched the smoke build and counted the helicopter sorties overhead.

The Chilliwack River Valley is a spectacular place. With the river below, and the mountains around, it offers some of the finest outdoor recreation in the world.

But with that popularity comes traffic – human and mechanical.

Most know how to treat the environment. They know that the best way to appreciate the wilderness is to care for it, respect it and leave it as they found it.

There are others, however, who are less accommodating.

At best, they leave a mess for others to clean up.

At worst, they ignore campfire bans and leave their fires smouldering until the wind picks up and turns it something more serious.

When that happens we all pay a price. And while no structures were lost, or injuries sustained in this most recent blaze, it did carry a cost that we all share.