Editor’s View: All it takes is a spark

An entire community could be erased with the flick of a cigarette butt

Last week was so hot you could cook an egg on your windshield if you were stuck in a traffic jam without a pan.

Fire departments were on high alert and the BC Wildfire Service was shuttling firefighters from Hope by air and ground to put out blazes across the region.

The Fraser Canyon earned some fame, with Lytton reaching a scorching 41 degrees Celsius. Heat and air quality warnings were in place for a week.

Still, in the midst of this heat wave, a motorist thought it was a good time to flick a butt out of their window as they passed a crew of firefighters battling a roadside fire in Sunshine Valley.

“Believe it or not…as we started releasing traffic down into Hope and got the highway open again, one of our firefighters saw somebody flick a cigarette butt out of the window,” said fire chief Chris Terry.

This particular fire, brought quickly under control Monday night thanks to 16 firefighters and fortuitous conditions, “could have been a lot worse,” Terry said.

The worst-case scenario, Terry told me, would have been the complete erasure of one of Sunshine Valley’s small villages. With a little more wind, fewer volunteer firefighters available and less help from the Wildfire Service, this could very well have been a reality this week.

Soon after this story went online, readers began suggesting tougher fines, jail sentences and more medieval punishments. The problem is, the fines are already steep and the awareness efforts never cease. Terry, sounding exasperated, said the message has been shared over and over again.

Next time drivers throw a cigarette butt out of their window, they could be risking the survival of an entire community. Now if that doesn’t make them think twice, I don’t know what will.

Emelie Peacock is the editor at The Hope Standard. Get in touch with her at news@hopestandard.com

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