Scorched Earth

On the way through southern BC a few weeks ago, we managed to avoid a lot of the areas where there had been wildfires this summer. The area between Princeton, BC, and the Okanagan was as lush as ever.

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But as we came to the Okanagan, especially near Osoyoos, BC, we saw signs of the recent wildfires that had raged across the land, fanned by high winds during the summer’s drought. In some cases, homes had barely escaped going up in flames.

Wikipedia gives the following definition of “scorched earth.” A scorched earth policy is a military strategy that involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. In the Okanagan I saw a different, but just as terrible interpretation of “scorched earth.” Imagine whole hillsides aflame and the wind pushing those flames toward your home.

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These were the lucky ones, but it must have been a terrifying time for the residents.

Dog Days of Summer

We all know it is a hot and dry summer this year. My usually green backyard is yellow and brown. The grass breaks off as I walk on it and big patches of bare dirt are showing through. It will all come back in the fall with the first rains, but until then, there is no water to spare for an acre of grass. It’s more important to keep the trees, shrubs, and garden alive.

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Definitely the dogs days of summer.

This morning I looked out expecting yet another bluebird scorcher of a day to develop. Wow! I’ts foggy. Maybe we’ll get some rain at last! But then I saw the sun. It was blood red and easy to look at. I reminded myself not to do that, just as in an eclipse we shouldn’t look directly at the sun, lest we damage our vision. I tried to take a photo of the sun but the red colour wouldn’t come out right. Being an amateur photographer I still don’t know how to get the red  sky colours or the photos of eclipses to come out right. Here is the best I could do, but imagine the whole sun as red as the line around it.

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As it rose higher in the sky, it was just as red but that colour was even more difficult to capture with the camera.

005Then I realized that the last time I saw the sun looking like a red ball of fire was a few years ago when the smoke from a fire hundreds of miles north of us had covered our skies. Sure enough, I have learned that there are several large fires burning on Vancouver Island. Right now I feel as if I’m sitting on a bonfire ready to go up in flames at any time. I’m surrounded by tall trees that haven’t seen a drop of water for over two months and the dry grass around me is the best kindling you’ll ever find for starting a fire.

If I see a smoker walking through the nearby trails (and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen hikers going for a healthy walk while puffing on a cigarette),  I’m not sure how I’ll contain my fear and outrage.

The town of Port Hardy to the north of us is threatened by a wildfire as I write, while another fire is burning to the west of us near Port Alberni. It seems the whole province of British Columbia has fires burning. Saskatchewan has plenty of fires as well, and of course, we’ve been hearing of the fires in the States for weeks. It’s just too dry!

Yesterday, the view below was of bright blue sky and brighter blue sea with a few white caps puffed up from the breeze that brought us relief from the heat while, elsewhere, it fanned wildfire flames. Today everything is gray from the smoke of many fires.

007My garden has been getting water, but everything else, as you can see, is tinder dry.

008I’ve learned that “tinder” is a frightening word.