By Dean Midyette
On the afternoon of Sunday, July 30th my wife and I headed to Kimberley and Cranbrook for dinner and a bit of shopping. At 4:15 p.m. we passed a grass fire on the west side of Highway 93/95, about 15 minutes south of our home in Canal Flats. At that time the fire was about the size of a 25m swimming pool. While no equipment was on site, there was a firefighter with a walkie-talkie in hand. Thinking everything was under control we continued south.
Before leaving Cranbrook we checked DriveBC to find that the fire had jumped the highway and traffic was reduced to single lane alternating. We arrived at the site of the fire at 7 p.m. to find the highway closed and water bombers attacking the blaze. Stopped on the highway, we could see trees candling as the fire climbed a ridge to the northeast. Smoke plumes blackened the air. At 8 p.m. we were told the highway was closed for at least two hours if not longer. In the space of three hours the fire was thousands of times larger.
Only 15 minutes from home, we turned south and began a seven and a half hour odyssey through Fernie, Bragg Creek and Banff to get back to the Valley. As we turned north on Highway 22 toward Longview, Blue Rodeo began to sing “If we’re lost then we are lost together”… not a good sign. Throughout the drive in Alberta you could smell the smoke.
There is a fire ban in place and our beloved valley is tinder dry. Ignoring a fire ban can result in a fine of $1,150 with a $575 fine for flicking a cigarette butt that starts a fire. Additional penalties can result in fines of up to $1 million to offset the cost of fighting the fire. Ignoring the ban because you are on private property is irrelevant; the fines and the ban still apply.
There were also a lot of inaccurate posts on social media, including the impending evacuation of Canal Flats or that the fire was 800 hectares in size. If you are going to post on social media, please get your information from a reliable source and do not share any posts that don’t have a citation or link from an official source.
This long weekend, let’s all be responsible.