B.C. Cariboo region reflects on past fire damage while preparing for new wildfire season
Life as residents know it in the province’s South Cariboo Region has returned to a relative state of calm.
The spring season is bringing with it new crops and animals for farmers — but also fresh fears of what’s poised to be another hot, dry, and potentially destructive summer.
Farmer Lorne Landry still remembers the frightening speed of the Gustafsen fire, which destroyed the area during the then-record-breaking 2017 wildfire season.
WATCH: (Aired May 21) B.C. community battles back from forest fires
“It just came down the hillside,” he said. “Like a freight train, just coming down the hillside.”
In rural areas of the province, wildfires — like the ones that have ravaged the region over the past two years — can spread at astonishing speeds.
That’s something ranchers and farmers like Scotty Lang, who came close to losing his own livelihood two years ago, know all too well.
“It’s just a way of life, and we have to accept it,” Lang said of the potential for destructive wildfires in the province.
“We just watch more, watch for lightning strikes. And go out there and see what we can do about it.”
WATCH: (Aired July 24, 2017) Saving the 108 Mile area from wildfires
Lang and some of his family members were among members of the community who worked tirelessly to fight the Gustafsen fire, which devoured roughly 5,700 hectares of land, including dozens of structures.
“We stayed and fought the fire last time,” Lang recalled. “It was scary. We started at five in the morning, and left at 10 at night. It’s different when you’re fighting to save your home, and your neighbours’ homes.”
With hundreds of local firefighters now being deployed to Alberta to help fight multiple out of control fires, British Columbians are watching closely — and hoping their province doesn’t see a similarly early wildfire season.
Regional District officials are also urging property owners to be proactive when it comes to preventing future fire damage, while investing half a million dollars in doing the same.
That money will fund initiatives including implementing strategic fire breaks and the clearcutting of areas already charred by flames.
“Remember where you are, be respectful of where you are, and just take a little extra care,” Al Richmond with the Cariboo Regional District urged residents in light of the region’s recent dry conditions.
“While we’re celebrating moving on, we’re as wary of the upcoming season as everybody else.”
Longtime locals like Lang agree. He said he’s prepared for the upcoming wildfire season — and feeling ready for it, rather than nervous.
“We’ll make it through again,” Lang vowed. “It drew the neighbourhood tighter, and closer.”
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