FIVE ISLANDS – Watching recent news clips and hearing horror stories of residents who lost homes in Fort McMurray, left Jean Marsh cold.
A sixth-generation resident of her family property, directly across the road from Five Islands Provincial Park, Marsh lives in dread of a forest fire she fears could be sparked by one of the many campfire cooking pits available to visitors.
“Nobody is offering us any protection,” Marsh said. “There are a lot of private woodlots over there. If they’re burnt down there is no compensation because you can’t insure woodlots.”
Not only are the cooking sites in provincial and private campgrounds exempt from open fire bans during wildfire season, but Marsh believes the grates for pits at the Five Islands park are too open to properly contain sparks in windy conditions. She also feels underbrush and other combustible growth is much closer than the three metres that regulations state they should be.
Marsh’s sentiments are shared by Lower Five Islands resident Judy Roberts, co-owner of Gemstone Bed and Breakfast.
“I can’t imagine them allowing fires anywhere when a ban is in place,” Roberts said.
The pit fires are of particular concern.
“Some of them are big fires and sparks could easily come across to our house or the woods up behind us could go.”
Not only could public safety and private property be threatened, she said, “it definitely would impact tourism to this area. And having family up in Fort McMurray, I know what they’ve all been through.”
It’s the same for Lynn MacIntosh, whose family also owns hundreds of hectares of property in the area.
“I mean, I can’t imagine what we would lose if that happened,” she said, of the prospect of a forest fire originating from the park.
“So, to me, prevention is everything. So why would you even consider having fires anywhere?”