COLUMN: Fire threat hits close to home

Burns Bog blaze a reminder to all how quickly an emergency situation can arise.

The destructive Burns Bog fire, which went from a small grass burn on Sunday to a 78-hectare uncontrolled forest and brush conflagration in a matter of days, is a strong reminder of the potency of fire.

Smoke was visible over most of the Lower Mainland Sunday afternoon. Fire crews from various parts of the province, including wildfire specialists, were called in. Water bombers and helicopters were used. One Vancouver radio station went off the air after its transmitter site was burned.

Most of Tilbury Industrial Park, adjacent to Burns Bog, was evacuated as a precaution, and as of Monday morning, several businesses were still under evacuation orders. Highway 17 between Highways 91 and 99 was closed Sunday evening. It only reopened on Wednesday, when the bog fire became 100 per cent contained.

Many Canadians were again reminded just how destructive fire can be when the Fort McMurray wildfire occurred in early May.

Thousands of people lost their homes and many barely escaped with their lives, as the shifting winds (also a factor in Delta’s blaze) pushed the fire into areas that were thought to be safe. A total of 2,400 buildings were burned.

The entire community was evacuated. It will take years for all the damage caused by the Fort Mac fire to be repaired, and for many people, their lives will never be the same. Thankfully, no one was killed.

Back in 2003, similar destruction took place in Barriere and, most notably, in Kelowna, where hundreds of homes were consumed in a raging wildfire.

People who live in the Lower Mainland may feel insulated from wildfire, but that is only partially true. While most people do not live adjacent to large forested areas (with some significant exceptions), the damage that an uncontrolled fire can do in an urban area is massive, and it can happen quickly. Fort McMurray is the most powerful example of that.

In Delta, Tilbury Industrial Park houses hundreds of businesses from large to small. The collective investment in those businesses is undoubtedly in the billions of dollars. Those businesses employ thousands of people. All that could be destroyed by a raging uncontrolled fire and the Burns Bog fire proves that while it may be unlikely, it is not impossible.

Fire officials constantly stress the dangers of lighting even small backyard and grass fires, particularly when the weather is dry. This huge fire, which started as a grass fire, is proof that their warnings are realistic and reasonable.

Stories from the United States about fires caused by stray fireworks, lit in celebration of the July 4 Independence Day, are also a good reminder of why they also warn about use of fireworks. It’s good that it has become difficult to buy fireworks in this area – the risk is simply too high, to say nothing of the potential danger to individuals.

Delta Fire Department, Delta Police and emergency officials from other parts of the region have their hands full in dealing with this fire before it was finally under control on Wednesday.

However, as past fires in Burns Bog have demonstrated, the fire may be out on the surface but still burning beneath the surface in the peat. There have been innumerable examples of this over the past 50 years, and often fires that start in the summer months last until winter.

Burns Bog is a precious jewel in the Lower Mainland. However, it will always be at risk.

This week’s fire is a good reminder to all of us to be careful and to be prepared for a sudden emergency.

Thanks to all the crews who worked so hard on this fire.

Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for The Leader.

 

Just Posted

McCallum’s canal pitch took Surrey councillors by surprise

City government has more important issues pressing than building a canal, councillors say

Surrey RCMP conducting drug-related search warrant

Traffic closed in both directions on 128th Street, between 64th and 66th Avenue

‘He’s still with me on the daily’: Slain friend motivates Surrey’s Lyles to make it with B.C. Lions

Jaylen Sandhu a source of inspiration for running back, a former standout with Lord Tweedsmuir

Queen Elizabeth students hit $100K in donations to Surrey Hospital Foundation

Secondary students have been raising funds for a decade through the Roots & Rhythms event

North Delta Huskies honour former captain as provincial banner unveiled

NDSS’s championship win marks the school’s first senior boys provincial basketball title in 29 years

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

Men caught with illegal gun near Burnaby elementary school

They were sitting in a parked car near Cameron Elementary

Home care for B.C.’s elderly is too expensive and falls short: watchdog

Report says seniors must pay $8,800 a year for daily visits under provincial home support program

B.C. ‘struggling’ to meet needs of vulnerable youth in contracted care: auditor

Auditor general says youth in contracted residential services may not be getting support they need

Pair of B.C. cities crack Ashley Madison’s ‘Infidelity Hotlist’

Data from the website reveals Abbotsford and Kelowna hottest spots for cheaters

Life’s work of talented B.C. sculptor leads to leukemia

Former Salmon Arm resident warns of dangers of chemical contact

Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

Billboards featuring Indigenous artwork to be placed in Surrey, Kamloops and near Prince George

Most Read