BEFORE ORGANIZED DETECTION the ‘public eye’ – random, unplanned detection – was the only form of fire protection.
Those first nomadic peoples, spread thinly across the continent, kept a keen eye on their environment, alert to the signs of fire, ready to move out of its path.
Centuries later incoming settlers, as they went about the business of clearing land and building homesteads, found they had to be aware of an approachiang fire. A spiral of smoke in the distance, or the smell of scorched air, might be the only clue. Yet these settlers, who had everything to lose, often didn't follow the most basic safety procedures when using fire. Runaway fires were rampant.
IT TOOK OVER 300 YEARS for the general public to assume personal responsibility for preventing, detecting, and reporting wildfire.
TODAY the general public, you and I, detect and report roughly 50% of all wildfires in Canada. Anyone who spots a fire – resident, tourist, camper, forestry worker, pilot, truck driver – is responsible for reporting it to the nearest fire agency. Check out two stories, 50 years apart, in which ordinary people took this responsibility one step further: Mum on Fire Alert and Canoe Trippers.
Hammering the message home through public education, reinforced by legislation, worked. Public attitudes changed profoundly.