Canada is the second-biggest country on earth, situated in the top half of the North American continent. The Canadian landmass is diverse in its way. It gets colder and rockier towards the northern region, becoming less inhabitable, and from west to east, it is greener with valleys, deserts, and forest areas. Canada has one of the densest forests covering almost 347 million hectares of land area, which is 9% of the world's forests, making forest fires a common thing in the state. According to experts, there are roughly 8,000 forest fires in Canada every year, putting both the humans and wildlife in this region at risk.
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Much of the country is at the risk of wildfire and has an expert team of firefighters who set up camps in the forest throughout summer, closely monitoring and trying to stop the forest fire. Even this doesn't help to prevent the outburst of fires. Forest fires can be classified as man-made and natural. The natural causes are usually high temperatures, lightning, etc., while artificial fires are due to pure negligence of people, like throwing cigarette buds in dry bushes, leaving out unextinguished campfires, etc.
Global warming and climate change are also the major factors contributing to forest fires. According to citizens, the 2016 and 2003 Mcfort and Okanogan fires were among the most devastating fires in the land. The 2016 Fort Mac fire led to the evacuation of 90,000 people from their houses and destroyed almost 24000 buildings. The total estimated damage was worth 10 billion dollars.
As wildfires are unpredictable, deadly, and unstoppable, faster-spreading than you imagine, all we can do is take measures to protect ourselves from the effects. The most important thing is that family members or workers in the office must be informed and trained to be calm and composed and act quickly in case of a fire. If people panic, things will go out of control.
Some of the things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones from forest fires are :
1. Before fire measure
This is more of a practice than a tip. If you live in a fire-prone area, reduce the amount of highly flammable things you store in your house or premises. Also, clear all combustible materials, pine leaves, and cut down any trees, branches that are closer to the ground or of 15 feet height. Never decorate your house with vines or any kind of hanging plants. Also, use non-flammable decoratives inside your home or business.
Reduce the use of curtains to a minimum, and buy non-flammable furniture because even furniture can stop the spread of fire or slow it down. Look for furniture that government firms approve. Also, note that there should be enough gap/space between them that their branches aren't too close while planting trees. To reduce the spread of fire, the construction of fuel breaks like a pathway of gravel or tile can minimise the risk of spread. Keep fire sprinklers in the house and lawn.
Prevention methods can be implemented from the construction phase of your building, starting from the type of material you choose for your construction, installing fire alarms in every room, checking them, and replacing their batteries yearly. You can also install sprinklers on your lawn and install garden hose that can stretch throughout your property. Firefighters can also use this to protect you. Always design an emergency evacuation plan and educate every resident of the building about it. This will help them save themselves before it's too late. Also, write down or learn all the emergency numbers you will need in case of any emergency.
When it comes to your house, it's not just wildfires that can damage your property. There can be fires caused due to electric sparks, leaving a pan or any cooking appliance careless, or leaving a candle burning unintentionally. It's always the little things that can cause a disaster. So be careful always to turn off the stove, clean the surrounding and insides of ovens and stove to make it grease-free. While using electric appliances, never leave it on for a long time unattended, place all lamps away from windows or drapes, check all wiring, plug points, etc., by an expert before moving in. Make it a point to check the electric connections and appliances regularly.
2. During a wildfire
The sooner, the better. Evacuate as quickly as possible. These fires can be deadly and unpredictable, keep listening to the news channels, pack your stuff and do all the necessary things as soon as you hear the evacuation alert. Leave your house at once when the evacuation order is passed. Don't wait until the danger is at your doorstep. As soon as the evacuation order is passed, move your furniture to the centre of the room and take out drapes, curtains, or anything that can easily catch fire. While leaving the house, switch off the natural gas and leave the lights ON so that the firefighters can spot your house.
As soon as you get into the car, close all windows and doors completely so that the smoke doesn't get in and cause irritation while driving. Do not panic. Stay as calm as possible and switch on the highlights so you can see more clearly and take the route specified by the authorities as safe and clear. Always check the fuel level in the car. It’s best to fill it as soon as the new danger is out.
3.After the fire
The danger doesn't end there. You should be extremely careful while returning to your houses since there can still be underlying dangers. Return only after the officials announce it's safe. Before taking your children and the elderly, make sure that the property is safe for them. Lookout for ash pits and half-burned trees and structures. Mark them using yellow or red tapes or sign boards so that others can also stay away and you won't forget them.
When you live in a fire-prone area, always make sure that your property and vehicle are insured with a Government Insurance company. You will never know when the next fire breaks out. As soon as you return home, always take pictures and document all the damage caused.
Submit these documents to the company as quickly as possible to avoid confusion and fast processing. If rains follow wildfires, there is a chance of flood or water clogging in your house premises. If you spot any, eliminate all possibilities of danger by first turning off the power (in case of floods, it would be done by the officials). If not, make sure you do so later to check for any poisonous animals nearby or take shelter from the heat.
Remove all rugs and carpets and inspect under them. While doing so, it's always best to enter your home in the daytime. If you're using battery-powered flashlights, please turn them on before entering. There is a chance of a gas leak, so it's always safe to do so. If possible, use the mobile flashlight. Never use matchsticks or candles.
If you notice anything odd, leave right away and alert the authorities immediately. Return only when they have done everything needed and have eliminated all possible risks. Return home only after multiple examinations of all the systems in your house by experts. After returning, don't use the common water supply until the officials communicate it. Even after that, drink boiled water until it is tested for any microbial infections. Once you return, take another set of photographs of the house and surroundings. This will help documentation be more accurate.
We cannot eliminate these fires. Studies show that about 2.5 hectares of land are burnt down every year, this may vary from year to year, and most of them are caused by lightning, and they burn around 80%. This is mainly because the fires caused by lightning are hard to detect and might go unnoticed until it spreads. Global warming is also a major cause, but a recent study states that wildfire rates have decreased since 2000.
Presently, one of the most devastating fires was the Fort. The city will never be the same again. Some recovered fast, rebuilding what they had lost, but some people still struggled after one year of the fire. It was a horrible site to catch as firefighters struggled to extinguish the fire and people left their houses, knowing that it won't be the same when they come back.
The municipality assumed that around 5000 citizens hadn't returned since they lost their homes and jobs in the worst cases. Coping with the trauma after the fire is another problem. Sleeplessness, anxiety, and fear are the symptoms. If unchecked, this will lead to post-traumatic disorder. For this, focusing on the present life and trying to forget the past is the only solution. If necessary, have to get medical assistance.