Yesterday we saw smoke billowing up over the mountain from the Blakeburn direction. Since there is now a fire ban in place and we are at a very dry, and the most vulnerable part of the year, this caused quite a lot of concern here in Coalmont.
A call to the local volunteer fire chief, Jody Woodford, did not give us the answers we wanted to hear. Apparently Forestry is calling it a “controlled burn” by Compliance Energy Corporation at their mine site, and that they have a permit – despite the fire ban.
However, according to several eyewitness reports, there was no one on the site yesterday when they went to look, and it appeared to be a slash burn. The word from our Area-H representative, Brad Hope, is that the office is well aware of it and that it is an old fire which flares up during hot weather. Whether this is just what they think, or this is what Compliance told them is not known at this point.
Woodford is personally very concerned about the way the Forestry Service is viewing the situation. She is under the impression that they do not want to hear about the fire unless it is clearly out of control. Hopefully this is not how they normally view large unattended fires near population centres, but if it is then we could be in greater danger from fire here in Coalmont than was previously thought.
Another witness who visited the site this morning, said that it looked like a slash burn and that there were also some trees on fire. They did not see anyone there keeping an eye on it. With no apparent monitoring of the situation, what are we to do here? Certainly the seemingly conflicting information from eyewitnesses and different authorities does not bode well.
Something looks wrong with the way we are managing fires in this area and it needs to be looked into. We need to feel safe and know that there is a system in place to monitor and hopefully control large fires – not just let trees burn close to our town because it is only an “old” fire.
It is hard to tell what the truth really is, but this is a story which needs follow up. Who is responsible? Who is monitoring? Who cares? The first two questions have no answer yet, and the last one is obvious – we do. §