When there’s a crisis, teens often want to help, but struggle with how to do so.
Right now, wild fires are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, with British Columbia facing over 100 of them, 90 of which are out of control as of Tuesday.
Ignited by lightning strikes and the irresponsible actions of people, fuelled by hot, dry conditions and fanned by winds, these fires have forced people in communities such as Williams Lake and Cache Creek to evacuate and 100 Mile was on evacuation alert. Others who live on the Ashcroft Reserve have already lost their homes and possessions.
Safe in my house in the Lower Mainland, it’s difficult for me to think of ways to help, to make a difference. But it isn’t impossible.
The most direct way is by donating to the Red Cross by text, call, or by going online to the Red Cross website. Even students with their first summer job can make a $10 donation to support fire victims’ services.
The SPCA is currently taking in monetary donations to help with the rescue and evacuation of animals in areas around the fires.
Friends of mine in Chilliwack have opened up stalls in their barn for people who are fleeing the fires with their horses, as have many others in the Interior.
Another important way youth can help during this provincial crisis is by raising awareness.
Currently, B.C. is waiting for more military reinforcements; the province has accepted help from both Ontario and Alberta firefighters.
However, B.C. has additional resources at its fingertips, waiting to get off the ground. By doing a few quick online searches, I found that The Coulson Group of Companies, renowned the world over for fighting forest fires, is based in Port Alberni, B.C. It owns the Martin MARS, a water bomber with a total water capacity of 13,639 litres of water and an additional 2,270 litres of foam concentrate litres. While the MARS won’t be ready to fly for a few weeks, the Port Alberni-based Coulson Company has offered the use of one of its night vision Sikorsky S-61 helicopters.
The B.C. government discontinued its contract with the Coulson Company in 2013, but brought the company back on a month-long temporary contract in 2015 to fight forest fires.
Perhaps that is what needs to be done, again.
There are petitions started online at Change.org, but perhaps the best way for students such as myself to help get more planes and helicopters in the air is to do what we do best – make use of social media. We, too, can contact our MLAs, spread the word about Coulson’s aircraft on social media, or sign a petition.
A little action can make a difference in a crisis. Whether one feels empowered enough to sign a petition or is more comfortable posting a quick “thank you” to firefighters, making a donation to the Red Cross or to the SPCA – these are all things that any teenager can do to help people affected by the current crisis facing our province.
Being a teenager does not have to mean being disenfranchised or unable to affect change.
Instead, it can mean approaching a big issue from a unique perspective. For some teens, by staring small- grappling with what’s within their own control may seem less daunting than tackling a provincial crisis head-on.
Just last week, some of my friends and I went camping at Gold Creek in Golden Ears Provincial Park just days before the campfire ban. Much to our shock, especially considering how forest fires have dominated the news, the people who vacated the site next to ours had not only moved their fire pit grate, but had left a fire burning in it.
Needless to say, we extinguished it and reported the incident to the parks official.
Adopting good practices when using our forests is something all teens can own. No matter your age, it is possible to help fellow British Columbians. Whether it’s a donation, a post, or just a quick thank you, those many small actions can add up to helping to make a big difference.
Marlowe Evans is a senior student at Thomas Haney
secondary and a member of the school’s student council.