EDITORIAL: Ban campfires all summer in Squamish | Squamish Chief

EDITORIAL: Ban campfires all summer in Squamish

Yes, times are tough and a backyard fire or bonfire by the river can ease tension and bring a sense of normality to what are very stressful and strange times.

There is really nothing better — or perhaps more Squamish — than standing around a campfire, with a beverage, roasting marshmallows, surrounded by our stunning landscape.

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But during this pandemic, and given what we have seen so far, a campfire ban should be put in place in Squamish until fall.

The ban put in place April 17 was lifted on Tuesday.

But the fire chief has the authority to place a campfire ban at any time and for any duration.

And he should, because, unfortunately, we can’t trust everyone to treat fire with the respect it deserves.

That has been proven time and again.

The reckless few ruin it for the responsible many.

We are not even close to summer and fire has already been a burden on our community.

April 9, two houses went up in flames on Fourth Avenue, displacing two families.

Over Easter weekend, fire crews battled a house fire on Government Road, and doused a small brush fire.

Squamish Fire Rescue also received three calls for illegal burns over the Easter weekend.

From April 14 to 20, Squamish RCMP responded to seven fire complaints. The calls were for backyard, camp, and beach fires, according to police.

“These types of calls unnecessarily strain ...police and fire resources,” said Cpl. Angela Kermer in the weekly RCMP media briefs.

And of course, we’ve seen the wildfire in Upper Squamish that cost several families their homes and cost many others their sense of peace as they were displaced for days.

We also had the brush fire in Valleycliffe that took 10 fire fighters and locals to stamp out.

Not all fires are easily prevented.

Lightning, for example, could still cause more wildfires this season.

If a fire ban can lessen the number of preventable out of control fires, let’s do that.

With the pandemic, there is no room for mistakes and when campfires are allowed, history teaches us, mistakes will be made.

Early research suggests wood smoke could increase the risk that wildfire firefighters will develop more severe COVID-19 symptoms.

The same is likely true for residents with lung issues who are exposed to the same smoke.

Luckily, our air quality wasn’t so bad with the Magee Road fire, but it could have been. Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald told The Chief he drove up from the city to double-check our air quality during the fire, because it was a concern.

If another wildfire comes close to town, it puts our first responders and some Squamish residents at increased risk of contracting the most serious form of COVID-19.

Not to mention that having to fight a fire puts responders and anyone evacuated at increased risk of contracting the virus just by virtue of them having to be out among more people.

Campfires are awesome, but let’s wait until we aren’t also battling a global pandemic to enjoy them.

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