The horrific firestorm tearing through Fort McMurray is another wakeup call and warning to every city and town in Canada. Fire can strike at any time and ravage lives and property on an incalculable scale.
It’s not the first time it’s happened and it won’t be the last. What matters, is not so much the conditions that bred these raging monsters, as the response to them.
Following the Kelowna wildfire in 2003 in which 239 homes were lost and 27,000 people evacuated, (compared to 1,600 buildings in Fort McMurray, and 90,000 evacuated) and the report, Firestorm 2003, the B.C. government pushed cities to develop their own wildfire protection plans, a set of steps and development guidelines, such as ensuring fire breaks etc., that could slow or even stop a fire from racing unimpeded through a city.
Maple Ridge passed its own wildfire protection plan in 2007, but then flirted with death and disaster by delaying for half a dozen years the accompanying development guidelines that actually implement the fire-protection measures.
Eventually, Maple Ridge adopted those guidelines for its new suburbs that face the forest.
Other cities in B.C., Kelowna notably, have followed suit and if they haven’t, they should do so quickly.
Important to keep in mind, is that a wildfire in the Interior or in the forests of northern Alberta could pale in comparison to a coastal wildfire.
If conditions became dry enough, wildfires on the West Coast, with its huge underbrush fuel load and towering cedars and firs, would be catastrophic.
Every city, Maple Ridge particularly, now needs to revisit its wildfire protection plans and strengthen and update as required, while the memories of Alberta’s disaster are still vivid.
– The News