Use your spark of common sense

Use your spark of common sense

My camping experiences though few have been memorable. There was May 1965 when my husband and I left New York City to drive across country to Montana. I recall camping in Yellowstone well before tourist season. We were the only campers in that area of the park with a first-rate view of the Grand Tetons. On our way driving in, the road had been bordered with snowbank walls 14 feet high cut clean by a blade.

Next morning we built a small campfire on which to bake pancakes. A campsite warden came along, bundled in a heavy woollen jacket. She scarcely could believe we were camping so early in the year. The temperature was so low the Rogers syrup took forever to creep out of the bottle.

After such a chilly introduction, it was incongruous we eventually moved to Terrace and opened a 14-space campsite on a bank of the Skeena River. Mowing its lawn weekly permitted me to have afternoon snacks of peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwiches without weight gain. I also learned how addicted campers can be to having a campfire.

On a sizzling hot day one July a local family camped in early afternoon, set up their tent and lawn chairs, and while Dad and the kids went fishing, Mom (slathered in suntan oil, no doubt,) and wearing a bikini, parked herself in a lawn chair, sandalled feet to the campfire, and read a book.

We had no worry about campers accidentally torching a forest fire. Our grounds were clean, no overhanging or more than a few nearby trees. But the notion a campfire was necessary even on a hot day for a true outdoor ambience always baffled me.

So I’m not surprised to learn over the B.C. Day weekend Fraser Valley conservation officers levied $48,000 fines against campers who ignored the province-wide fire ban. Most of these illegal campfires were found during CO night shifts all on Crown forests, and all outside of campgrounds. Some of these fires were even underneath trees.

“If you’re caught starting a fire, feeding it, or even sitting around it,” says conservation officer Don Stahl, “you can be issued a fine for up to $l,150 and your name will be entered into the conservation database.”

“Every stop we run their names through the database, and if it’s there, it’s probably not going to be just a ticket,” said Stahl.

“We’ll ask for a court appearance where a judge can impose a heftier fine or possibly levy criminal charges.”

A considerable added expense to an otherwise inexpensive campout.

Why anyone with a spark of common sense would ignore a fire ban is difficult to comprehend when our entire province as well as neighbouring provinces are choking from our forest fire smoke, thousands of homeowners are losing property and being evacuated to nearby towns, millions of trees are being destroyed which will impact the livelihood of loggers and lumber mills for decades, animals are losing their lives and habitat, and we’ve called in supporting firefighters and equipment from as far away as New Zealand along with 200 army personnel.

To impress these ban-breakers with the seriousness of their crimes, instead of a fine which is quickly and easily paid with the swipe of a credit card, they should be ordered to report for duty on the fire line, grubbing out smouldering roots.

Let them feel what firefighters feel, breathing smoke, sweltering in a fire-resistant suit, slogging long hours in the hot sun.

That would give them a unique camping tale to tell.