Val Litwin for BC Liberal Party Leader

No Vacation for Firefighters

BC Wildfires Armstrong
August 15, 2021, 4:30 PM, Armstrong, BC, photo provided to Val by a friend

Kyle Young’s statement caught my eye last week.

It also knocked the wind out of me.

Mr. Young is an Incident Commander for the BC Wildfire Service and if you didn’t catch his post, here it is:

“2021 is different from previous years,“ he said and because of the intensity and stretched-resources he’s had only “six days with his family since June 30th”.

He’s been doing his job for 16 years and is a third generation “wildland fighter”.

It was moving on two levels.

First, I was reminded of how much I still need to learn about what our wildfire service members really do.

Mr. Young’s post prompted me to reach out to a dear friend and senior member of the wildfire service.

What’s the worst you’ve ever seen?, I asked him.

A small excerpt from his long list:

  • Burned communities leveled to the ground (Slave Lake).

  • I was assaulted once by a member of the public when I asked them to put out a fire during a ban – and when the neighbouring community had just been razed by fire.

  • Basketball-sized rocks rolling down unstable slopes where my colleagues and I were fighting a fire.

  • The top snapped off a larger danger tree my brother was falling. The top of the burnout Aspen was massive and missed his elbow by 6 inches.

 

Another colleague was early-on-the-scene in Lytton and shared that he saw two slippers sitting scattered on the road – no time to put on shoes when you’re running for your life.

The images are jarring and upsetting.

They are a reminder of what our intrepid wildfire service and other first responders are going through, so we don’t have to.

But, Mr. Young made another important point:

“It is also the time to remind yourself that when you post something [on social media] out of anger, frustration, fear, or heartbreak, there are other families out there feeling all those same things and reading your words that may be hurtful.”

Everyone has an opinion.

I’m a supporter of free speech.

But let’s remember the mark of a civil society is how it behaves and perseveres in crisis.

Adversity is character revealing, after all – not character forming.

As Mr. Young wrote: “I wonder what tomorrow will bring, will it rain, will I be able to see my family soon, or will I open social media and be inundated with posts from people who speculate on what we do, or worse, what they think we don’t do?”

So, thank you Kyle Young and all your colleagues for the hard work and sacrifice.

Thank you for your generosity of spirit, evident in the tone of your statement.

And I hope you get to see your family soon.

In the meantime, thank you for protecting mine.

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