Minister calls firefighting dangerous, says it can have severe impacts to physical and mental health
The United States government does not have a presumptive disease policy for their 15,000 federal wildland firefighters, but British Columbia is seeking to expand their program.
From The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:
Firefighters who have battled British Columbia wildfires, fire investigators, and fire crews working for Indigenous groups will be eligible for greater access to job-related health compensation under legislation introduced Thursday.
Labour Minister Harry Bains tabled amendments to the Workers Compensation Act that extends occupational disease and mental health benefits to more people who work around fires.
The proposed changes will expand cancer, heart disease and mental health disorder presumptions to include the three other job categories, because Bains says those workers are often involved in the traumatic issues related to fires.
Presumptive illnesses faced by firefighters are recognized under the act as conditions caused by the nature of the work, rather than having firefighters prove their issue is job related to receive supports and benefits.
Bains says the government expanded the presumptive job-related conditions last year to include mental-health disorders for police officers, paramedics, sheriffs, correctional officers and most urban firefighters. He says firefighting is dangerous work that can have serious impacts on an individual’s physical and mental health.
“They will enjoy the same coverage as the other firefighters — the first responders — receive as part of giving them certain cancer protections, heart disease and injuries and mental health,” Bains said during a news conference after the legislation was introduced.
“These steps are very necessary to ensure our workplaces are the safest in the country.”
The Horns Mountain / Santa Rosa Fire is burning in Washington and British Columbia
(Originally published at 4:15 p.m PDT August 28, 2018)
The 5,500-acre Horns Mountain Fire is burning in both Canada and the United States — Washington and British Columbia — east of the Laurier Port of Entry border crossing. In Canada the fire is named Santa Rosa.
In the photo above firefighters from both countries had a good natured meeting at the international border. I would wager that the topics discussed did not include tariffs or trade agreements.
Due to numerous large fires in Washington and British Columbia, both sides experienced a shortage of resources. According to an update from the incident management team, “working together was a benefit to both”.
The fire is winding down thanks in part to favorable weather in the last few days. Some resources on both sides are being demobilized.
UPDATE: August 29, 2018: When we posted this on our Facebook page Eric Haberin wrote, “Very much West Side Story”. I found the fight scene on YouTube and got a screenshot:
The big difference is that the firefighters are smiling.
The British Columbia Wildfire Service reports that this 8 hectare (20 acre) fire is burning in steep terrain by the headwaters of the North Klinaklini River. They have assessed the lightning caused fire and will monitor the growth within natural boundaries. No communities are threatened, they said.
Above: Satellite photo taken August 2, 2017 showing smoke from some of the wildfires in British Columbia. The red dots represent heat detected by a sensor on the satellite.
It is not easy to measure and quantify the composition of the smoke and the amount of particulate matter that a huge wildfire produces when intense, large-scale burning forms towering pyrocumulus clouds that climb tens of thousands of feet into the sky. This launches the byproducts of combustion into the stratosphere — the second layer of Earth’s atmosphere, above the troposphere. Once introduced at that level they have been tracked while circling the planet multiple times.
For comparison, the explosive 2008 eruption of Mount Kasatochi, an island volcano in Alaska, sent about 0.7 to 0.9 teragrams (nearly 1 million tons) of aerosols — tiny, suspended particles — into the stratosphere, Peterson said. For months afterward, people around the Northern Hemisphere documented unusually colored sunsets, thanks to the sulfate aerosols and ash the volcano injected into the atmosphere.
Peterson’s team estimated that the British Columbia pyroCb event sent about 0.1 to 0.3 teragrams (about 200,000 tons) of aerosols into the stratosphere — which is comparable to the amount seen with a moderate volcanic event, and more than the total stratospheric impact of the entire 2013 fire season in North America, he said.
It’s well known that catastrophic volcanoes can influence the global climate. The huge 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, one of the largest in living memory, lowered temperatures around the world by an average of 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius).
The wildfire situation in British Columbia has not gotten any better in the last several days. Currently there are 128 active wildfires in the province, with four of them being larger than 50,000 hectares (123,000 acres). The largest, the Hanceville Riske Creek Fire, is getting closer to half a million acres each day.
Since April 1, approximately 591,280 hectares (1,461,082 acres) have burned in 900 fires in BC.
Hanceville Riske Creek, 172,000 hectares (425,000 acres) approximately 60 km southwest of Williams Lake.
Elephant Hill, 117,000 hectares (289,000 acres), near Ashcroft.
Tautri Lake, 76,000 hectares (188,000 acres), 80 km northwest of Williams Lake.
More than 400 additional firefighters from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico and the US are expected to arrive in BC this week. Other firefighters from Australia have been in the province for a couple of weeks. More than 100 firefighters arrived from Mexico since Saturday of last week…
The map above shows the number of current registrations for Category 3 open fires in British Columbia. Registrations are required for a fire that burns material in piles larger than two meters high and three meters wide, windrows, or grass over an area larger than 0.2 hectares (0.49 acres) in size.
Most areas in southern British Columbia are expecting to receive precipitation over the next couple of days, so landowners are probably wanting to get the burns in before the rain or snow.
The BC Wildfire Service sent out a notice Friday morning saying, “Burn Registration line is currently receiving a high volume of calls. Pls be patient if you are waiting in queue.”