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The Forests Are Burning

Updated on August 17, 2018
Turtle Bay, on Little Lake Joseph, Muskoka, Ontario
Turtle Bay, on Little Lake Joseph, Muskoka, Ontario | Source

This summer is turning-out to be a scorching one. Just a month ago, I was at the Dokis First Nations’ Pow-wow, up on the French River, here in Ontario. I have been going there for the last ten years. I have a nice secluded camping spot, up on a big rock, next to the river, on the outskirts of the reserve (“by the second bridge” for those in the “know”). That is where I camp. This year though, was the first time when I was there, in the middle of the forest, next to a fast, cold river flowing by and I was sweating buckets. I felt like I was in a sauna, with sweat dripping down my face constantly, even in the shade.

Now, a month later and in the area of the French River, fires are burning wildly. Officials are saying that 16 out of the 49 fires in Ontario are not under control, with one major fire threatening the Trans-Canada highway. OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) have stated that if the fire gets much closer to the highway, they might have to re-direct traffic due to low visibility from smoke. At the moment we have fire-fighters from all over Canada, the United States and Mexico helping out in trying to control these fires.

The situation is not much better in the rest of the country. The fires have been so bad on the west coast that fire-fighters from Australia have arrived in British Columbia to give a hand. It has been a scorching year all around. Manitoba has had its faire-share of wild forest fires. The same can be said of Alberta and other parts of Canada. We’re barely managing.

In the United States, the situation looks tragic as well. Thousands of people have lost homes and tens of thousands have been evacuated. Right now California is burning away. They have been experiencing drought for years on end now and thus, with the vegetation all dry, the fires are merciless. Some are calling this a “new normal” due to “cyclical drought, climate change and the ceaseless drive to populate fire-prone areas”, Mr. Rusty Witwer, who has been with the California Department of Forestry, told the New York Times.

Yet, it is not just North America engulfed in flames. In Greece, thousands of tourists and residents are fleeing to safer areas, while fires are moving rapidly through communities. Some people have walked into the sea, the only safe place to be, watching their homes burn away. The Coast Guard has pulled hundreds of people to safety, “according to the deputy shipping minister, Nektarios Santorinios”. Even so, casualties are increasing daily.

Considering that this might very well be the new norm, there is an urgent need to adapt our behavior. It is bad enough that a lightning strike can start a massive forest fire. Thus, we should do our best to limit our own mistakes. Live outdoor fires should always be watched. We have to make sure we are not throwing cigarette butts wherever we feel like it and that overall we are careful with our handling of any fire. And please have fire-extinguishers close by anywhere where there is a fire, stove, barbeque, etc.

We had a grass fire start here in Ontario from someone’s exhaust pipe. So, if your car shoots flames/sparks out of the exhaust, which some cars do, please leave it at home. Or, maybe drive it on the race-track and not on country roads. These are no longer trivial matters. I do know that forest fires are necessary for forests but what we are experiencing now is much more extreme than the usual summer forest fires.

When forests burn uncontrollably, everyone loses. The forests lose, we lose, the birds lose, the four legged lose, the crawlers lose. We all lose a lot. Please be kind to the Forests and help one another if possible. It is a tough time. Thank You.

All the best to everyone!


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