#50 – Feel the Burn, Part One: The Immolation of Matheson

Nothing quite says “Canada” like an enormous fucking forest fire. From Swayer Hogg noting the violet skies in Eastern Canada that resulted from Alberta’s massive fires in 1950 to the current tendency to use fires as an excuse to threaten to take children away (because that’s obviously a top priority when literal communities are spit-roasting), Canada’s history of wildfire-fighting offers another glimpse into the fetid, incompetent heart of this wretched land. It takes a cruel type of anti-talent for a country as forested as Canada to shit the bed so regularly, but cruel incompetence sticks to this place like grey slushy pseudosnow does to an ill-fitting boot so here we are again. It’s time to review some floudering forest-fire fighting history!

This is rather tough to do in the format I work with, because the federal government has of course abdicated responsibility and refused to do jackshit even when the provinces beg for help.  And when dealing with provinces your options are generally variations on a common theme of shit, meaning that this post would get fucking boring. So I guess what I’ll do is talk about some of the lowlights of Canadian fire-fighting history in this series and the misguided consequences therein. It should be noted before we begin that forest fires are a necessary, healthful component of forest growth, which means that the only way we even have the concept of forest-fire fighting is because cakers fucked the whole thing up by showing up and being retarded.

(S) A forest fire here would certainly be healthful to the environment

So, the deadliest forest fire in recorded Canadian history happened in 1916, when “fuck those Injins” wasn’t quite the national motto but only because it wouldn’t fit on the crest. The cakers running Ontario at the time were trying to convince people to move to Timiskaming, a hellish hovel of quasi-Siberian squalor in Northwestern Ontario, instead of Saskatchewan, which was also a hellish hovel of quasi-Siberian squalor but in the Prairies. One of the small problems with this was the shit-ton of forest, which makes settling tough. Seeking a quick profit to make living in this insufferable shit-pile bearable, immigrants opted to clear the land by setting shit on fire and hoping for the best.

What can be expected in this context ended up happening on 29 July, 1916, when the whole motherfucker went up in smoke. Entire towns like Iroquois Falls, Matheson, and something called a Nushka were obliterated and then even more tragically rebuilt, taking on more gruesome forms as the immigrants devolved through association into cakers. Seeing that the prospect of scamming immigrants into living in a desolate forest might be endangered if the word got out that said forest also can turn into a literal hell in an instant, Ontario started fighting forest fires.

The problem with this, as you might have noticed if you were paying attention before, is that total fire suppression is neither ideal nor affordable. The Americans figured this one out in the 1960s by doing the unthinkable – noticing that the natural environment actually needs fire. By 1964 those damn Yankees had passed the Wilderness Act, which noticed the stupidity of fighting forest fires as a matter of course and moved the Yanks to modernity. In Canada, the revolutionary idea that maybe nature takes care of itself took until the early 1980s. And don’t you worry – Canada is moving more and more people into fire zones.

 

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