How do you feel after starting a disastrous wildfire?

People start most wildfires according to BC Wildfire Service. Few admit it.

image: New York Times

They must feel awful. Their carelessness caused people to flee for their lives. Livestock and wildlife were killed. People homes destroyed. Smoke from the fires left lives compromised.

You probably didn’t mean to start the fire –it just got away on you. You were just doing things you normally do when fire risks are low, like burning garden waste or lighting a campfire.

Colton Davies, reporter for Kamloops RadioNL, tweeted that the largest fires this year were probably human caused:

“The 6 largest fires in BC this year have burned 422,000 hectares. Five were likely human caused: Sparks Lake (95,980 hectares), White Rock Lake (81,139), Lytton Creek (71,323), Tremont Creek (63,980), McKay Creek (41,110). All broke out on clear days with no lightning.”

People are angry at you for starting those fires. They want you to be held accountable. Jean Mitchell tweeted a reply to Davies:

“Thx 4 this compiled info, Colt @ColtonDavies. More & more I feel that Canadian Forces Technology could & should play a more significant role sooner than later in finding these culprits & holding them accountable. It’s well known that Armed Forces have a wealth of high tech savvy [Thumbs up icon].”

Lytton resident, Carel Moiseiwitsch, can’t believe that someone from her own town started a fire that incinerated her home and sent townspeople fleeing with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Instead, Moiseiwitsch wants to sue Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway – alleging the heat or sparks of a passing freight train caused the destructive blaze.

However, a Spokesperson from CN says that: “any conclusions or speculation regarding any cause of the Lytton fire or contribution factor remains premature.” CP says that video of a train with burning material purported to be the cause of the Lytton fire was nowhere near the town.

Fire information officer Erika Berg from BC Wildfire Service suspects that the Lytton fire came from within the Village:

“It is suspected to be human-caused, but that specific cause remains to be determined,” she said.

How could you live with yourself knowing you caused such devastation? Do you have the courage to admit that you did?

Mike Barre had such courage but he paid a price.

In the wildfires of 2003 that ripped through the North Thompson valley, Barre admitted to dropping a cigarette near McLure that started a fire that ravaged the area.

Barre had to live with the fact it was his cigarette that sparked the 26,420-hectare forest fire that burned 72 homes and nine businesses and forced the evacuation of 3,800 people, many of them twice.

“I went through hell,” Barre told The Kamloops Daily News a decade later (July 27, 2013).

His family paid the price as well; his son harassed by other kids. While the community forgave him, he divorced and finally moved away.

You know who you are. Why not clear your conscience and admit that you started a wildfire? It could lead to your redemption.

It will be painful at first but your admission could be instructive for future generations. With hot and tinder dry conditions forecast, your story could form the basis of a shift in our habits and the way that we live in our beautiful forests.