Letter: At what point should fires be fought?

Who decides what amount of harmful smoke is OK for the Okanagan residents to breathe?

The people living in the interior of British Columbia, particularly those living in the Okanagan must become more engaged, and proactive in understanding the health consequences, which result when government decisions are made to, either fight a new fire or let a forest fire burn without any human intervention to stop same.


The most recent case in point would be the Harris Creek fire east of Lumby, which is burning and churning out much smoke and ash. The initial press reports were that this fire was not deemed to be a threat to any buildings and property, and as such would be left to burn. The added caveat was that this might be considered a good thing, as accumulated forest debris would be cleared out and be less of a danger in the future.

The stated criteria to fight or not fight this new fire was clearly the immediate danger to property, or humans living in the immediate vicinity.

My question is this; what calculations are made to assess the potential air quality issues which might arise, from not deciding to jump on this fire? Who decides what amount of harmful smoke is OK for the Okanagan residents to breathe?

The AQHI ( air quality health index ) is a means to express the amount of fine particulate matter which is in the smoke we are having to breathe. As I look out my window this afternoon of August 10, 2018, there is a real cause for concern. The fact that my lungs are being significantly compromised because, last week, there were no barns or houses in immediate danger, begs a review of our current strategy and criteria to fight fires. The long-term health effects of smoke and ash in my lungs are as important as any building or structure.

Short term and long term effects from this horrific amount of smoke and fine particulate matter, are significant and have been well documented.

Citizens must become aware and engaged; press their elected MLA for information related to what amount of our tax dollars are being allocated to fight fires in this new normal of climate change.

Are sufficient tax dollars being prioritized to hire firefighters? Should we have more water bomber/tanker aircraft? Call your local MLA, write the ministers of forestry and environment, and express your concern. Be proactive, do this now; don’t endure more years of this real and present health danger, to find you have permanent lung damage because someone else made the decision as to how much smoke you should tolerate.

W. Laurie

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