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“Aces and Asses,” Volume 1. The Heroes and Zero’s of the recent Kelowna forest fires.

July 22, 2009 6 comments

Welcome to my first instalment of “Aces and Asses,” where I take some time to point out some top notch people (aces), and some that I currently don’t think so highly of (asses).

For the second time in six years, my hometown (Kelowna) has been subject to home evacuation level forest fires.  This time is was West Kelowna that was subjected to threat.  After learning how to deal with such a disaster in 2003, our city really pulled together and got through the worst of 2009’s version, which featured not one, not two, but THREE simultaneous forest fires; all in danger of connecting with each other and causing a single fire that could’ve enveloped our whole city, if it hadn’t been attended to promptly (inaccessibility for firemen, water bombing cut-offs at dark, overnight winds, and unrelenting summer heat all could’ve made that happen, luckily it never got to that point).

Kelowna Fire 2003

an actual picture of the Okanagan Mountain Park fire in 2003 (photo by Steve Devries, used by permission. http://www.sayvee.com )

Who I’d like to recognize as Aces are quite an easy selection: the Firemen. Ever since our society redefined the “hero” after September 11, the fireman has gotten a lot of spotlight. I believe they deserve every watt of it. The civil servants that work on a volunteer basis, are on call at all times, answering 4 am calls to rescue cats in trees, constantly training for that one big fire that no one hopes ever comes. When it inevitably does, the grounds crews lug around heavy, sweaty gear and equipment, into dangerous environments conducive of death on multiple levels, literally putting their lives on the line so that Johnny Bravo, driving a $100,000 car, looking out for number one, living in his million dollar home on the mountain, won’t lose his abode. Granted, there are many other very kind people and their homes that are saved too that are much more deserving of such service. The air crews drop water and fire retardant from planes and helicopters thousands of feet up in the air with pinpoint accuracy. And NONE of them go home until the job is done. Good on ya firemen, and thank you, you’re Aces in my books.

Now, onto the Asses. First off are the idiots who still haven’t figured out that lighting a campfire in the middle of a forest that has been subject to heat levels that have dried the trees out to resemble a matchstick factory, is a POOR idea. “Sure,” they say to themselves over a campfire, “we might cause a blaze that could burn down the ENTIRE forest, spread to a residential area, burn down homes, destroy or damage property, maybe kill people, and incur millions of dollars in fees for the crews to put it out, also put said fire crews in mortal danger, and possibly get fined ourselves if we’re caught, buuuut I really do need these marshmallows toasted.” Nice going morons, accidental or not, you guys can never repay the debt to society that you’ve generated by your ignorant and idiotic actions.

Second are those who have decided that a home evacuation epidemic is the ideal time to loot the homes of the evacuees. This is the absolute lowest level of humanity that I’m aware of. The selfishness, greed, and desensitization of the people who decided to do this is absolutely staggering and appalling. It really takes a special kind of individual to take advantage of people in this manner. Not only are the victims already homeless, but now when they return home, they will find themselves possession-less as well. I hope that if these people are caught, they are charged the same, if not more, than the people who started the fires in the first place. Despicable.

In a time where a community has really come together, shown it’s true colors and helped each other to overcome such distress, it’s just plain unfortunate to find out there are such lowly people are among us. But on a side much more worthy of attention, there are still some incredible, selfless people, who really show what it means to “love thy neighbour,” and to have real pride in one’s community. From the fireman on the front line, to the lady who goes around her neighbourhood and knocks on doors to make sure everyone knows there’s an emergency and to help them prepare, to the guy who gets out of his car and helps direct traffic for the thousands of cars trying to flee, there are still plenty of good people left around here.

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