I hope we can finally learn the lessons fires and subsequent reports tried to teach us in 2003, 2010 and now. We need to get back to prescribed burns and we need to be more proactive with preventive measures.
Those are easy words for me but more difficult for you to implement so please hear me clearly. I realize these measures come at a cost. I am ok with a short-term tax increase knowing there will be long-term savings by not spending hundreds of thousands (if not millions) per hour, annually, in reactive fire-fighting and associated structure and other losses.
I am a long way from a fire expert. Here are some items which seem apparent to me. By doing proactive measures, we can build guards, put out sprinklers and hoses and do backburns on regular wages, not overtime. Helicopters and airplanes are on the ground, loaded and ready but on standby rates, not full-rate in-flight charges. We can aim for days with a good venting index. We can post notices advising those with health issues so they can leave or properly prepare themselves.
We need to mow our highway ditches. Smokers aren’t getting any smarter and vehicles are still having accidents and leaving the road. Green grass is harder to burn. Should we change what we plant in our ditches? Are there ground cover species which are less likely to dry out and be a hazard? Should we burn the grass in the ditches?
None of these measures are easy to implement because of the wide range of jurisdictions, budgets and perspectives. Hopefully private and public landowners and associated agencies can find common ground to reduce our hazards and therefore our long-term costs.
Please don’t tell me being proactive is not in the budget. There’s only one taxpayer – me – so federally, provincially or municipally, someone reacts to a wildfire and I pay the bill. I want that bill reduced.
Please don’t tell me to wait and we’ll talk once the fires are out. We need to talk now while everyone is raw and aware and paying attention. Once the cooler weather hits, the kids go back to school, fall sports begin and memories fade.
The media are giving us daily exposure to myriad experts and academics with years of experience and insights. We need to gather the best of that information and ACT on it, starting now – Fall 2017.