Posts Tagged ‘2017 Cariboo-Chilcotin Wildfires’

I kept writing and rewriting this post, and it just wouldn’t come together.

Delete it all, condense and post the darned thing. No more funk. Here we go.

As many of you know, I live in central British Columbia, Canada. Smack dab in the middle of the region known as the Cariboo-Chilcotin. The Fraser River flows past my door. We are surrounded by forest on all sides. Beautiful forest, miles and miles of it, millions of acres of it. And it’s been really, really dry.

Now a bunch of it is on fire.

A month ago, July 7, this started up in my neighbourhood. This picture was taken from the upper hillside of our farm, an hour or so after a dry lightning storm passed through our region, sparking over a hundred forest fires, including these two.

The good news is that in four weeks these two particular fires have basically burned parallel to our river, above the escarpment, and joined up to form a united “complex”, as the forest service wildfire people call it.

Topography has been in our favour, as have been the prevailing winds. Fireguards have been built around some of the more troublesome bits, air support has quenched worrisome flareups. While anything could still happen given the right extremes of hot weather and strong wind – or another lightning storm – for now we’re looking good.

That tragically can’t be said for a lot of the rest of our region. Many of the other fires are bigger and angrier, and they are raging along out of control, being beat back here and there by the efforts of thousands of professional firefighters, logging crews, farmers and ranchers and First Nations “fire warriors”. Whole communities have been mass evacuated, major highways closed. Life for many is standing still as they wait things out far from the flames and the dense, stinking smoke; others are very much on the front line, fighting to save their homes and those of their neighbours.

People we know have lost their beloved houses; some have had hair’s breadth escapes from personal disaster. So much has been consumed!

This is utterly personal. The fire map looks like a guidebook to places we’ve lived in, wandered through, known and very much loved. We’re in a state of quiet grieving for the changes to our special places, while knowing that for others the loss is much more immediate and tangible. Survivor’s guilt lurks in the corner of one’s mind.

So there it is. Summer of 2017. One to remember, and it’s far from over yet.

I’ll leave you with a lighter note, book related.

When the smoke plumes on July 7 billowed ever higher, and a further investigation from a higher point revealed us to be surrounded by a total of six big smokes and numerous little ones, we made haste to develop a get-out-quick plan. We rounded up our pets, discussed a strategy for the farm creatures, and threw together some crucial belongings.

This done, we looked around to see what precious things we should save, if worst came to worst. Photo albums were obvious; these were packed up and stacked by the door. Computer back-up drives, cameras. My daughter collected her writings and her artwork. “Are you going to take any books?” she asked me, as I dithered between peering out at the status of our personal smoke plumes and checking and rechecking the forest service’s wildfire alert web page.

Where would one even start, in a personal library consisting of thousands of books?

It was easier than you’d think, and perhaps odder.

I must report that in the case of natural disaster, my most treasured possessions to be salvaged from flood or fire apparently consist of the four earliest (and exceedingly hard to come by) novels by my beloved Margery Sharp. (And my mother’s wedding ring.)

I’ve now had a month to mull over that book list, and it has remained exactly the same. In the meantime I’ve unpacked and re-read all four, and kept them handy, just in case. I might just add several more…

Onward we go, looking over our shoulders but basically getting on with things, feeling a bit like we’re living in the eye – or at least on the edge! –  of a fiery hurricane.

We sure could use some rain.

 

 

 

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