Columns and Letters

Letters: Dangerous, selfish, and taxing: residents upset by Dave MacDonald’s grassfires

Dear editor,

With the wildfires of Fort McMurray hitting so close to home this month, it was very frightening to see Dave MacDonald lighting massive grassfires along the interval in Fordview, Margaree early last week. With weather conditions being extremely dry and wind conditions being relatively high, these intentional grassfires were not only upsetting to local residents, but they were also viewed by many as dangerous, selfish, and taxing on our community.

As I drove along East Margaree Road on the evening of May 2nd, I was alarmed to witness the massive expanse of said “controlled domestic brush burning”. At least 15 acres of the interval was ablaze with some flames reaching the shoulder of the pavement. After a number of phone calls to municipal councillors, DNR, RCMP, and our local fire department, we were told the same thing: Dave MacDonald was apparently following all of the province’s burn regulations and that there was nothing they could do. Perhaps so… but I’d be curious to know when respect for fellow residents, safety of a community, and plain common sense fall in to play? After speaking with many community members, it was clear that there were dozens of other people upset by these three consecutive nights of intentional grassfires in East Margaree. 

Some of these community members were concerned for their health and safety. I know of at least one case where smoke inhalation was severe enough that an individual went to outpatients due to a bad asthma attack (it should be noted that this resident didn’t live right next to the fires either…). The air pollution from these grassfires was so intense that residents living many miles away and in other parts of the Margarees were adversely impacted by it. Other residents were concerned about their livestock and neighbouring farmland, while some expressed concern for nesting wildlife (Canadian geese, fox, beavers, muskrats, voles, and small field birds). Not surprisingly, the majority of residents were just plain scared of how this large scale grassfire could easily become something of a living nightmare should anything go wrong (and with suête wind warnings in effect most of last week, we can definitely count our blessings that nothing did go wrong!)

I want to pass out a sincere thank you to our local fire department who did investigate these fires, but I wonder what fairness was there for them either? Being called out to deal with the hazardous antics of one person for three nights in a row seems rather unjust and taxing on a volunteer-driven organization. And what justice would there have been if the safety of another emergency situation would have been jeopardized because all attention was focussed on the intentional, yet in my opinion, unreasonable, actions of one community member? 

If you too feel concerned about this matter, I strongly encourage you to contact your municipal and provincial government leaders, so that no future grassfires result in this extent of anxiety, fear, and health issues for our community.

Regards,

Adèle LeBlanc

Fordview, Margaree

 


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