Sometimes, I go for a walk. I do it for my physical health and for my mental health, because a good walk can help clear your mind or allow you to get your thoughts into order. Walking through nature is particularly good at giving you a different perspective.

Our annual forest fire season has certainly started in a rather dramatic way this year with lots of fires and lots of damage. I certainly feel for all the people affected. Forest fires, floods, severe weather, volcanoes or earthquakes — these are all geological stuff that happens every year all around the planet and affects a lot of people. I am sure losing one’s house and all of one’s belongings is a very traumatic and painful experience.

One carelessly dropped cigarette butt could start a fire that would be threatening homes. The city really should groom the forest more. Walt Humphries photo.

Earth is a rather active planet. That’s just the way it is. It is full of surprises and collectively, little by little, we learn more about it every year. If you combine that knowledge with the changing technologies we have, we may start to figure out how to better live with them. My first suggestion would be to come up with a way to wet down entire communities being threatened. Most communities sit beside a lake or river. So, water is not the problem. The problem is having enough people, pumps, hoses, and sprinklers available to wet the communities down.

Giving the town a really good rainfall and washing. Some people scoff at this idea, but if farmers in arid places have figured out how to irrigate hundreds of thousands of hectares of land so that they can grow crops, then I’m sure we can figure out how to wet down a small community. I also visualize someone inventing a fog or mist machine that could be set up in lakes or rivers in the forest fire’s path to slow them down.

Slowing the fires down, particularly on windy days, could prove to be very beneficial to eventually getting the fires under control. Canada really needs a top notch well-funded fire research institution. Also, any community in the forest should be designed to deal with fires. The government should run a contest with a million-dollar prize: Who can invent a pump that shoots water the farthest and the fastest? Then set up transport trucks with pumps and gear, so that they can drive into communities that are in danger.

I am sure if we put our minds to it, we could come up with ways to live with the fires. To better control them and to protect our human structures and infrastructure from them. I have been up close to several fires and walked through the forest after they have passed when the hot spots are still smoldering. It is amazing how fast a small, controlled flame can turn into a fire and how fast the fire can become a major forest fire when conditions are right. Boreal forests grow, so they will burn quickly. And the longer they grow the more flammable they get.

Naturally started fires are bad enough to deal with — we certainly don’t need all the fires that are started by careless humans. Yet every year, there are several human-caused fires because many don’t care or don’t know how dangerous they are. I think the government needs to be a little more proactive when it comes to teaching people about fires, monitoring activities when fire conditions are extreme and fining people if they don’t take care.

I believe the last time Yellowknife had a forest fire come through the area was in 1935 or 1936, just as the city was being founded. Since then, any fire close by has been put out but as the forest ages, it becomes more dangerous. That’s something everyone should be aware of. What’s happening south of the lake could easily happen here. So, let’s take fires seriously before they start and let’s explore our new knowledge and technologies to better deal with them. And let’s help all those in need because of this year’s fire season — which has just started.

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