PORTAL 52 Week 35: Hazy Days
It seems we have crossed yet another portal; the summer of 2018 will go down in British Columbia’s history as the worst fire season on record. About 13,000 square kilometres of the province has burned, breaking a record that was only set last summer.
Since the start of the fire season on April 1st, B.C. Wildfire Service responded to 2,015 wildfires. On August 29, there were 534 wildfires burning in B.C. The Canadian Armed Forces had been called in earlier to assist, as a provincial state of emergency was declared, then extended.
The smoke generated by such massive and persistent wildfires creates havoc for many people, especially those suffering with mobility, respiratory, or other health issues. The dangers presented by fires, the lack of visibility, and increased health concerns due to the smoke have made it particularly difficult for residents of British Columbia. There were reportedly 3,200 people evacuated from their homes, and another 21,800 placed on alert.
On the days that wind caused the smoke to drift across western provincial borders, the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and even Manitoba got a small taste of what many British Columbians have been dealing with for months.
Increased human activities, climate change, and more areas of land being occupied have been identified as the main factors behind the increasing numbers of wildfires experienced globally.
Mike Wotton, a research scientist at the University of Toronto and Canadian Forest Service, and Mike Flannigan, a professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta, contributed an opinion piece to the Globe and Mail. They said, “We have to change our view of fire. It is not the enemy but just a natural process, one that has historically helped maintain many vegetated ecosystems. However, it is at times uncontrollable by even our modern technologies…. The increased risks we face from wildfire will only continue to worsen without significant investment and change.”
No matter the cause, wildfires are game-changers. They are portals through which we are passing more frequently. As such, we have to change our ways, and learn how to live with them. To live with them, we must understand them. Investment of more money, resources and research into understanding these portals will, in turn, help us manage the risks better.