Forest fires are a big issue in many parts of the world, when the temperatures rise and there is no rain in sight. The beautiful province of British Columbia that PerfectMind calls home has been facing some harsh forest fires, particularly in Williams Lake and the surrounding area.
The fire has been so detrimental that the entire city was evacuated, with fears of the blaze threatening homes and, more importantly, lives. While the evacuation order has since been lifted, Chilliwack’s school district no. 43 took in evacuees who had nowhere to go—an amazing show of support. Forest fires aren’t issues isolated to any state, province, or country. You can take a look at all known current forest fires here to see affected areas.
While forest fires are sometimes a natural occurrence, human error and negligence is often the cause of many of the forest fires that we face. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, people cause an average of 61,852 fires each year. Wildfire prevention starts with the agencies that govern restrictions, but it ultimately falls to the awareness and actions of the general public. Below are five ways to help prevent forest fires.
It Starts from the Top
Regulating bodies need to be vigilant and preemptive with forest fires, in order to help curb their frequency. Those responsible for enacting a fire ban should be cross-referencing weather patterns with historical forest fire data. Prevention is key here and the message of a fire ban needs to spread quickly. Most cities are already equipped for this, as newspapers, radio, and local TV stations and programs disperse the information quickly. With the prevalence of social media and smartphones, it can also be useful to create a digital campaign that keeps the public informed.
For communities that live close to forested areas susceptible to forest fires, citywide preparedness is necessary for mitigating the damages inflicted. There are many existing programs, such as Fire Adapted Communities, Community Wildfire Protection Plans and Firewise, that help communities take individual and collective steps to protect themselves. These plans work to protect people, property, and natural resources, by emphasizing forest fire readiness and fire-resistant community design. Creating and enforcing the right regulations will help to contain fires and minimize damage, by reducing a fire’s ability to spread.
Awareness and Education Is Key
For city dwellers who may feel detached from the issues brought on by wildfires, it can be hard to understand the importance of forest fire prevention. With many urbanites heading to the wilderness during the warmer months, it’s important to raise awareness around the implications of a forest fire and how to minimize fire risks. Creating permits that people have to obtain before they can work in forestland, start campfires, or burn grasses, brush or debris lawfully can help mitigate the lack of awareness. While the basics of fire prevention may be common knowledge, there are many things that common sense alone won’t tell you.
While awareness is important, many people will have to make sure that it directly reflects in their actions. Part of this may include simple reminders, such as clear signs at a bottleneck for visitors of high-risk areas. Enforcing and managing the fines and penalties for violating any bans or regulations may also help reduce the willingness of individuals to engage in risky behavior.
As wildfires are a common problem throughout the globe, interacting with other forestry and parks and recreation organizations can reveal what has worked well, in other communities, and what has not. Regional think-tanks and governing bodies can help create a strategy for at-risk areas where each local population and fire prevention and suppression group can be involved.
Parks and Recreation Integration
Integrating fire prevention awareness into existing parks and rec programming, facilities, and parks can help spread the message. Having informative pamphlets at recreation facilities, touching on wildfire prevention in nature and forest workshops, and placing engaging and informative signs at parks are some of the many ways parks and rec organizations can help. Many organizations also have the ability to communicate to their communities quickly and more efficiently through various channels, such as social media networks, mailing lists, and newsletters. Helping spread the information can make a difference in avoiding wildfires.
Are you looking to help those affected by forest fires? A quick Google search can reveal areas that are affected by forest fires near you and how to best support their relief efforts. If you are in the Pacific Northwest, we encourage you to donate to the British Columbia Fires Appeal, in order to help ease the strain on impacted communities. We were pleased to witness the support Fort McMurray, AB provided to Williams Lake, after their devastating fires.