Commentary – Wildfires teach valuable life lessons

Richard Froese

Wildfires now seem to be the new normal for summer in northern Alberta and British Columbia.

Windy and warm weather and tinder-dry conditions spread wildfires that threatened communities around Wabasca, Loon River, Manning and High Level over the Victoria Day long weekend May 18-20.

It’s all too familiar to people in Slave Lake where wildfires destroyed homes and property and displaced residents in May 2011.

More recently, that was the similar story in Fort McMurray in May 2016.

Slave Lake and High Prairie opened their doors to people evacuated from the High Level area on May 20 where evacuation centres were set up.

Residents of Slave Lake know full well how they felt to be supported by another community when they were homeless.

Natural disasters such as wildfires and floods seem to bring people and neighbouring communities together.

Even though Slave Lake is about 550 km on the highway and about a six-hour drive by vehicle from High Level, the communities are still considered neighbours.

People can relate to the small town rural setting and do what it takes to survive and thrive.

Municipalities have strong ties to their neighbours and rural regions and are always willing to lend a helping hand in a time of need.

When disaster strikes, people are also committed to give and donate money, time and material resources to those who have lost material possessions lost or destroyed by fire or flood.

That’s what happened in the Slave Lake and Fort McMurray areas where fires destroyed homes. Residents from other communities launched clothing and food drives, fundraisers and other aid to support victims.

Many people also opened their homes and yards to those evacuated from their own homes, places of refuge.

No doubt, the same spirit of charity and giving will continue when any danger and disaster grows.

Disasters also remind us about what is important is life. Sure, the sudden loss of a loved one, a job, a home and valued possessions creates a sense of immediate grief and mourning.

Often people say they lost everything after their home and belongings were destroyed in a natural disaster or fire.

In reality, it is nothing. It is just material.

One woman interviewed on television about her loss in a wildfire said it well.

She said it’s just “stuff” and can be replaced.

Her family, grandchildren, neighbours and friends are what matters, not material things.

Everyone has probably heard the popular saying “you can’t take it with you” when you die.

Many people get caught up so much in their possessions that nothing else seems important.

A fire or a flood can wipe it all out in a moment, never to be seen again.

Why do some people seem to hang on to their stuff?

It seems the longer people live in one place or have more space, they can often collect more and more. But what really is the value in it all?

Eventually, there comes a time to downsize and downscale. Just think about all the people who live in a basic home or none, own a few things and seem to be the happiest people in the world.

Maybe it’s time to look around the house, garage, shop and yard and get rid of that stuff that hasn’t been used for months or years. Take them to a thrift store where they can be bought by somebody who needs them more.

That will also support a charity to raise funds. Those funds just may help a victim in a fire.

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