If we've discovered anything from the Fort Mac fire it's how woefully we are unprepared to deal with these conflagrations.
It's not like our leaders, provincial and federal, weren't warned. They've been warned for a long time, repeatedly warned, about the rapidly worsening forest fire problem. Like so many similar threats they've simply done bugger all about it.
Rachel Notley pared $15-million from Alberta's forest firefighting budget this year. Brilliant, Rachel, well done. Christy Clark the same.
Think these fires are bad - Slave Lake, Kelowna, now Fort McMurray? They're kids stuff compared to what's coming and, yes, that's largely due to climate change. Here's a brief excerpt from the latest New Yorker magazine describing the American situation. Ours is no better:
Last year, wildfires consumed ten million acres in the U.S., which was the largest area of any year on record. All of the top five years occurred in the past decade. In some areas, “we now have year-round fire seasons,” Matt Jolly, a research ecologist for the United States Forest Service, recently told the Times.
“You can say it couldn’t get worse,” Jolly added, but based on its own projections, the forest service expects that it will get worse. According to a Forest Service report published last April, “Climate change has led to fire seasons that are now on average 78 days longer than in 1970.” Over the past three decades, the area destroyed each year by forest fires has doubled, and the service’s scientists project that it’s likely to “double again by midcentury.” A group of scientists who analyzed lake cores from Alaska to obtain a record of forest fires over the past ten thousand years found that, in recent decades, blazes were both unusually frequent and unusually severe. “This extreme combination suggests a transition to a unique regime of unprecedented fire activity,” they concluded.
So, Rachel and Christy and Brad and Justin, just what do you want to do about this? Let the boreal forest go up in smoke? That's an option. But how do you deal with it after that? Do you reforest it or leave it a charred wasteland for nature's intervention? What about the watershed? Any ideas on that? Do we retreat from the north, bring everyone back down? What then?
CBC quoted a guy from the BC forest service who said the fire situation this year is nearly 20 times worse than normal. Of course he's speaking about the old normal, not the new normal.
Kids, better face facts. With the political leadership we have today - federal and provincial - we're on our own.