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The smoke that wouldn’t go out

As if there wasn’t already a mile-long list of reasons to stop smoking, this week was evidence enough for even the most addicted of all puffers to kick the habit.

For many smokers the threat of lung cancer, emphysema, circulatory system problems, high blood pressure and killing innocent people with second-hand smoke isn’t enough to make them butt out.

But how about the fact that a small discarded cigarette could create a towering uncontrollable inferno, displace thousands of people from their homes, ruin livelihoods, and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in damage control?

Some of the more than 350 fires ravaging this parched province have been caused by human error.

That could be from an errant ash in a backyard bonfire. It could be from a spark out of the exhaust of some construction machinery. And it could also be from the simple flick of the wrist as someone tossed the end of their cigarette to the ground.

It’s an act as natural as brushing your teeth for some. But in B.C.’s current conditions, it could cause wholly unnatural results.

Now towns like Barriere, McLure, Louis Creek, Falkland and Rayleigh, names once as foreign to me as a the provinces in China, will be forever seared in my memory.

Take one of those Kamloops fires. The general story goes that someone crushed out his cigarette near the bush, turned his back, and when he looked around minutes later there was an uncontrollable blaze. If only we could travel back in time, put the smoke in an ashtray and grind it down to a pulp.

Of course, it’s not only the smokers. They’re just easy to blame.

It’s everyone who is careless. There is no room for error right now.

This weekend we set off camping, knowing there was a fire ban. We talked about how nice it would be to sit around the campfire, toasting marshmallows, throwing another log on the fire and keeping those damn persistent bugs at bay.

We weren’t ever seriously considering starting a fire, as nice as it would have been. The threat of being the morons who set the Coast Mountains on fire was enough to make us stick to our little stoves and continually spray on the Deet.

But, I’ll admit it, we thought about it.

Up until that point forest fires were just a natural part of summer life. But usually they happened far off in the bush, up north, out of sight and out of mind for this city girl.

You would never actually believe that you could start a forest fire on your own.

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