Letter: “3000 miles of shoreline” but no water for fire fighting trucks?

Editor,

Reflections of concerned residents of Burns Lake and the Southside

In our desperation of raging wildfires around our homes and livelihoods, we were so grateful to see sudden help arriving from Alberta in the form of more than a dozen large trucks, loaded with fire fighting equipment (hoses and pumps).

However, those hope-carrying trucks stayed on the northside in Burns Lake, never moved to the fire areas…. Everyone got concerned and asked why: we lose valuable time, while more houses and livelihoods burn.

Then we got short notice, that those trucks were sent to leave again. Why? Who decided that? Who is responsible? We were able to join the spontaneous protest to understand and learn more why this was happening.

Thankful, that the media reported on our protest and lack of understanding, why this potentially big help was not permitted in, there is a number of crucial considerations, which have not been addressed. The public statement gives the following reasons for not allowing the help in:

“These higher capacity water delivery systems require close proximity to very large bodies of water.”, “..the water sources were insufficient…”

The Southside is centre of the “Lakes District” with hundreds of lakes. One of, if not the most, abundantly water-bodied area in B.C.

“3000 miles of shoreline” was the slogan of the Lakes District. The largest one being Ootsa Lake with more than 300km in length, clear water, high depth and widths of more than 4km.

There are countless options with large waterbodies within close fire proximity (e.g. Wistaria – Nadina Fire – as well as Ootsa Lake village, right on Ootsa shores with a number of homes).

Water sources “being insufficient” close to fire areas, which needed protection, can only mean: decision makers do not know the area including water bodies, or cannot read maps.

“They also require relatively flat topography…”

The Southside has many flat areas, roads etc. especially in the more densely populated areas around lake shores. It is relatively flat. How flat does it have to be?

If you cannot use the equipment here, where can you use it at all?

“…and are most effective in densely populated areas.” “…the terrain was challenging and there was significant distance between structures.”

Does that mean an area which is not densely populated is not worth the effort, even if it is only effective instead of most effective?

Is it true that the equipment has been used in Fort St. James? If yes, with what effects? Are terrain and lakes more suitable there? How?

All these questions make one wonder, what political and/or economic reasoning is behind this.

To let people’s livelihood, homes, their lives die in the flames, despite potential aid at hand, waiting to be let in, can be seen as nothing less than failure to render assistance in an emergency – in our law system, prosecutable.

It is even worse than that: people with equipment wanted to rescue in this emergency, but were hindered.

Martina Zechendorf and Barbara Buch

Burns Lake, B.C.

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