Thursday, July 23, 2015

Accountability and Solutions for Wildfires

July 23, 2015

As was told to me last week by Mr. Peter McKenzie, Counsellor on Local Advisory Committee,  employee of Valard:

“ Last year in August we finally had a meeting, the last one we had. We’ve had no meetings since then. Val ( Ms. Val Antoniuk, administrator in La Ronge Municipal Office for the Northern Settlement of Brabant Lake) said while we were doing the budget. ‘ We have
$30, 000 left over. Does anyone have any ideas how they want it spent?
Rebecca ( Mayor ) said nothing. Harriet ( Counsellor) said nothing. I said ‘ lets get a plow in here and make a really good fire guard all around the town.’ Val said that wasn’t a good idea and she wouldn’t support that. I said ‘ What’s more important than people’s lives and safety?’
She said nothing.”

Last spring I wrote a letter complaining about a secret “winter carnival” that was just an excuse for an Easter drunk and dope session. The Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs in Regina wrote back and defended the non- event and said that this is the last time that he would answer any of my letters. The Municipal Affairs Office in Regina according to the Deputy Minister is not interested in whether Brabant Lake and the people exist, drugged or otherwise. The Municipal Office in La Ronge according to the past and current record of Val Antoniuk preferred Brabant Lake people stoned and undefended from forest fires.

There are five to eight young men in the village who are obvious candidates for immediate fire fighters. They are not available because they are wasted with drugs, particularly with marijuana.  Marijuana is a major fire hazard because people are careless and indifferent on pot. They could drop a match, watch the flames with some interest and walk away indifferent to what this may do to the lives and homes of others and themselves.

At the beginning of summer Brabant Lake was a prime candidate for forest fires . Our puny fire guard has been untouched for 10 years. There is thick forest  in the middle of the village which could ignite the whole town in minutes. We have no fire safety equipment and no fire plan. John and I got on our “ radio” which is a loud speaker and two mikes and asked people to pray for rain. We said the Litany of Loreto more than once as out pray. There was no forecast for rain and no evidence that any was coming.  Thirteen people voluntarily evacuated due to dangerous smoke from other fires. It began to rain and did not let up for a week. The evacuees were home in two days.  There was a slight break so we could plant our buckthorn seaberry trees.

We were evacuees for two weeks because we went south and could not pass the fires leading to and from La Ronge. When we came home on the first convoy we found Brabant Lake was an oasis compared to the fires and smoke we had passed through. It’s nice that God, at least cares whether the people and this village survive.

1. Listen to the people who have fought fires and lived through them all their lives. Let people have fire guards and clear out thick brush within the community.

2. Do not allow people to buy lots then leave them unattended and unused. Put lots at a reasonable price, not $2000 for a rectangle of unserviced brush . In the south often villages have policies of lots for $50,00 on the condition that the owner builds within a few years.

3.  Seriously get tough on drugs including and especially marijuana . Work at stopping it from coming into the communities. Young people won’t quit with counselling. They go to Southend Clinic and pick up drugs on their way home or get them from the medical  taxi driver. Have regular police checks of vehicles including grocery runs BEFORE Brabant Lake and BEFORE  La Ronge. If  judges and politicians think marijuana is not dangerous then have them start listening to those who have experienced part or all of  the 40 year northern plague.

4. Have tree planters plant with much wider spaces between saplings.
 Insist that tree planting contractors make empty spaces every one mile or so. Maintain these cleared spaces annually. Do not let marijuana be part of the accepted tree planter culture as it is now. There is a Tree Planter’s  not so cute book, complete with photos, that treat marijuana like the British Empire’s 4 o’clock tea ritual.

5. Make fire guards through the unclaimed brush. If its Crown Land then the Crown ( the government) needs to be good stewards and accountable.

6. Make  people accountable including public servants such as Ms. Antoniuk and the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs. Gay