Sunday 5 May 2024

A Year Ago Climate Change Became Very Real

    A year ago today, I was at our Writer’s Group at the library.  At 3:00 I left, got on my bike to pedal home.  When I turned off Main Street, onto the highway, the photo above shows you what I saw.  I immediately increased the speed of my pedaling, because I was suddenly in a rush to get home.  Although still distant from the forest fire, our house is on that mountain.

    Once home, my wife and I immediately began gathering and packing our prized possessions, because we knew there was a great possibility that we have to evacuate.  We began stuffing the boxes and tubs with our important possessions into our car and pickup truck.   I periodically went out into the pasture to monitor how close the fire was coming to our house.  The threatening smoke appeared to be was behind the ridge.  (Photo below)

     We were soon visited by a member of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), who told us that we were to evacuate immediately.  We packed Kona and Lucifer into our already overloaded vehicles and drove away from our house, not knowing if it would still be there, when we returned.  We spent a couple of worrying days with friends, but fortunately the weather changed.  The wind that was blowing the fire toward our house, changed direction, and we got a heavy overnight rain that really dampened down the fire.

    When we were able to return to our house, it became evident that the path of the fire had burned upslope, and from our house, we could not see any of the burnt area caused by the fire.  

    The photo below shows a charred small cone of a tree that had fallen onto our sidewalk.  That is the scary thing about forest fires:  The wind-blown ash that blows and can land some distance from the actual fire, igniting another fire in the dry grass or dry wood.

    We were extremely lucky.   Last year’s fire was a wake-up call for our community.  I have spent a lot of time since, clearing flammable debris from around our house and buildings, and trimming the low branches off of conifer trees.  I just applied to the Fire Department to receive some of the free house sprayers that attach to the roof of the house, to further protect it from forest fires.  

    It is not that we weren’t aware of the possibility of forest fires occurring around our house, but we generally received a lot of precipitation, living in what is classified as an Inland Temperate Rain Forest and I did work 23 years for the BC Forest Service, so I was very aware of forest fires, but climate-wise, things in the Robson Valley have changed.  Our area is now suffering under a Category 5 Drought (the highest classification) and things are still unusually dry.   The snowpack on our local mountains was lower this year, than they have ever been since recordings have been kept.

    These conditions are unprecedented and scary, and I can only hope that we will be as lucky, next time something like this happens.

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