Maxed Out 

Forest fires continue to take their toll

By G.D. Maxwell

The sense of destruction can’t really be measured. Well, actually, it can. And it is. The total, growing every day, sits somewhere in the neighbourhood of 19,000 scorched hectares, 99 sheds and barns, 39 houses, 26 trailer homes, three towns, one sawmill, 200 jobs up in smoke, a devastated 50-year-old whose careless cigarette started it all... and the third finger on my right hand.

Those are preliminary estimates of the damage caused by the McLure-Barriere fire. The totals are sure to swell even assuming the fire, now more or less under control, doesn’t rise up Phoenix-like and start the dance of destruction all over again. The swelling in my finger presumably will subside but you never know. Blood poisoning could set in. On the other hand – not the only one I have that fully works but the other allegorical hand – it could have been a lot worse.

What, I hear you ask, does a swollen, black ’n’ blue, unbending, sausage sticking out of the middle of my right hand have to do with the biggest damn fire in B.C.’s history? Glad you asked.

It’s Stan’s fault. Stan, my fix anything, know everything, one man sustainability show of a neighbour, has lived in these parts for nearly 30 years. He was here before the road could really be called a road. He was here before the local fire department could really be called a fire department. Truth be told, it still can’t be called a fire department. At least not in the sense there’s much likelihood they’d ever get to a house fire in time to put it out before the house burned to the ground.

Which is why Stan dragged his old fire pump out of its hiding place. "Safety first," he said. The idea being if fire threatened either Stan’s log home or Smilin’ Dog B&B, we’d – as in Stan and I – stick a big hose into the emerald green waters of Sulphuric Lake, hook it up to the pump, run two hundred feet of fire hose up the hill and squirt the fire out.

"Does it work?" I like asking Stan inane questions.

"Well, no. It doesn’t. But I’m going to fix it," he replied.

In the meantime, he’d borrowed a fire pump from someone nearby who was obviously taking a more devil-may-care attitude about the dangers of fire, so we practised with it. We wrestled intake hose into the lake, wrestled squirtin’ hose up the hill, wrestled the airlock out of the intake hose and finally sprayed water all over the place. I figured in the time it took us to get everything working Stan’s house burned down. But I also figured we saved mine, which is a lot closer to the lake, so we rolled the hoses back up and stood our virtually homeless neighbours to cocktails.

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