Pictou-Advocate-opinion

Firefighters rate salute

Opinion

We are free to do many things. We are also protected from many things.
Among those who protect us are firefighters.
They answer fire alarms at all hours of the day in all places. Firefighters are first responders who also assist with traffic control and rescue measures at crash scenes.
Firefighters have been extra busy trying to contain forest fires this summer due to the recent hot, sunny weather that has made our already dry land dryer.
Sometimes, the measure of low rainfall is rural wells going dry. This year is different.
The frequency and potential hazards of forest fires is something we have not experienced in years. Recent rainfall has helped firefighters and Department of Natural Resources officials to contain them.
It has been a few years since we could recall a local blaze like the small one that broke out around Perch Lake in southwestern Pictou County. It never amounted to an out-of-control fire like the one in southwestern Nova Scotia, whose threat has been eased by the rain.
Firefighters are a special breed. They respond to outbreaks – be they buildings or woodland – even if it means taking vacation days from their day jobs to do it.
Some people feel they become inconvenienced with bans on campfires or even their presence in forests, but those bans are there for a reason and the need for them is real. Firefighters face situations that go well beyond inconvenience to an environment that has the look and feel of a battleground.
The size and devastation caused by the forest fires throughout Nova Scotia pale in comparison to the historic forest fire that rampaged through parts of Alberta near Fort McMurray and destroyed entire neighbourhoods in that city.
Fire destroyed 10 hectares in Perch Lake; that’s an area that is slightly less than 25 acres.
Compared to the approximately 590,000 hectares (1,500,000 acres) destroyed in the Alberta wildfires this year, we were extremely lucky. That’s an area bigger than P.E.I. that would represent a sizable portion of Nova Scotia.
It could have been worse. There were fatalities that were not directly related to the fire. Much more of the city could have been lost than what was actually destroyed.
The fire reached its height in May. Forests were also tinder-dry here. Garden soil was rock-hard. That is the consequence of relatively dry winters like our past one. They help explain what we’re experiencing now.
Firefighters can’t always extinguish forest fires. They need winds to turn and rain to fall to harbour hopes of that. They generally hold forest fires to a stalemate until that happens. They work in concert with forestry personnel using well-established methods.
So let’s salute firefighters and the blazes they respond to beyond those they fight in buildings. They are among those who stand between us and absolute peril.

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