Originally published as a column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on June 10, 2017. 

I was almost done with writing this week’s column by Thursday last week. It was about the missing campfire ban; it was long overdue and its absence worrying. Then Friday came, all hell broke loose in the southern interior and the Caribou, and a campfire ban was implemented without further delay.

Many thousands of evacuees later, homes burned, and multiple fires eating their way through the province, growing with every hour and gust of wind, the skies are hazy and the immediate future worrisome. In the midst of it all that and with the fear of more coming, it is almost too easy to get discouraged.

But since despair does not do much to help, making more room for better feelings might just be the way to go. To start with, gratefulness for having resources to fight fires, and for having people who are giving everything they’ve got to the fight with an adversary that takes no breaks. Firefighters often end up working all night during times like these. Their working conditions include hot, parched air, thick relentless smoke, and much physical exertion. Saying thank you seems like such a small thing to give in return. To them and to all those whose jobs take them to that front line where fear, anger, anxiousness, and heartbreak exist alongside people chased out of their homes by fire and some end up losing them to it.

Then there’s resilience. People who have been through losing their possessions and entire homes to previous wildfires are proof. Someone I know who went through the 1998 Salmon Arm wildfire had intense emotions triggered by photos of the ongoing fires; yet moving on happens because that’s what people do. When the going gets tough, and it does so because life is a blasted roller coaster trying ride at times, people find inner resources they did not think they had, so they keep on going. It’s the beauty of the unbeatable human spirit. It works best when you’re not alone in it.

Which takes me to the next good vibe. So many businesses in Kamloops have been opening their doors to evacuees, offering food and drinks. The offer is outpouring as we speak. Local kennels and people are offering to take pets and farm animals in. Backyards and home spaces are made available for impromptu camping.

It makes your heart swell a few sizes. It’s good to know we live in a place where big wide arms are ready to help. Yes, Kamloops has a big heart. In fact, many big ones. And this is just the beginning. There is a growing list of people who want to volunteer and donate to cover needs. The ongoing fires are still growing, most are zero percent contained – which does not mean hopeless, but hard to beat, and I know that we will see them restrained soon enough. All we can hope is that no others will start any time soon.

Which takes me to the bad sides showing in some humans. Family friends contacted me last night with questions about the fire ban. Driving near Hyas Lake area, their family spotted a few campers enjoying some good old campfires, despite the ban. Though some areas might be less dry than others, the fire danger is extreme and there is no going past that. That the said campfires were combined with drinking and that good old time that makes people less aware of sparkles landing on the grass… well, it’s just not right.

There is no happy follow-up either for this one. The campfires were reported the first night and local firefighters went and put them out, and gave warnings. The night after, campfires were back and there is little to say past that.

Lack of any social conscience is perhaps one of the most insidious and deadly disease that humanity has to defend itself against.

It’s only logical that I touch on cigarette butts next. On a sidewalk, they are an eye sore; in a place like Peterson Creek*, for example, or other city parks, which are as dry as dry can be (and getting dryer still with every day of scorching heat), a cigarette butt flicked carelessly could create yet another disaster. The many discarded cigarette butts I saw during my walks with the dog in the last few days before the park, were one too many to count or not be nervous about. All it takes is a spark.

Last, but not least: cars heating up fast when left in the sun even for a couple of minutes. Please do not leave children or pets locked in, even with windows cracked open. Hot weather turns merciless in mere seconds. Keep a watchful eye as well when you pass by parked cars in a parking lot. If you notice any children on animals, let someone know right away.

Stay safe, help when you can and as much as you can, and don’t give up hope. This too shall pass.

*Though now closed, Peterson Creek Park is now for the most part a large carpet of dry grass right underneath the Highway 1 bridge. Even one cigarette butt thrown out of a car driving by could mean sheer disaster. Please be mindful.