At War With the Earth: Fighting Fire in the Okanagan

In the 1840’s, talk in the Pacific Northwest was of controlling the threat to settled life from Indigenous people. “Indians” they were called back then. In January 1848, armed volunteers went out to kill or disperse the Cayuse of the Walla Walla and open their land for agriculture under the guise that land captured in war is not subject to legal negotiations but is freely available to the victors. In the 2020’s, talk goes more like this:

“The fire is hung up pretty high on the hillside,” said BCWS operations chief Andre Chalab. “It’s fairly dangerous for our firefighters to work on. The slopes are upwards of 70 per cent.”

He said there is a significant amount of fire fuel and heavy timber in the area between Six Mile Creek and Irish Creek Rd. Chalab said the burn will be removing that fuel to remove the threat of the fire on the Westside Road communities.

“The fire does have the potential to continue spreading toward the highway and impact communities, houses and infrastructure,” he said.

“This is the best option, it is the safest option,” he added.


What it is, is war, still. Think of it, as it was in 1848, what is being protected is houses (improvements to land); what is assumed is governmental ownership of land; what is being burnt is Indigenous connections to the land, in the name of protecting wildness (a synonym for freedom.) Below is an image of the fire camp in Vernon. It houses honourable, hard-working men and women, intent on protecting our communities and doing a fantastic job of it. All commendation to them.

However, when was the last time you saw a camp like this, for workers brought in to improve the land itself, and its Indigenous values, so that it didn’t burn? This camp is an exception, for a military-style intervention, necessary in an extreme situation, but, really, we should have camps like this every year, at far less expense, improving the health of the environment, so that camps like the one are never needed. Here are some of the guys at work. Look at what they have achieved! Incredible!

Source: Castanet.

And look at the abused forest they are cutting through. It should never have been in this state. It’s basically an ecological desert waiting for fire. Today, they did a big controlled burn to keep us safe.

Source: Castanet.

What great work. What a tragedy, at the same time. The government has set aside $136,000,000 to fight fires this year. Imagine what that money would do if it were used constructively.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.