COLUMN: Arbitrary decisions aren’t necessarily right

Sunday was spent, thanks to a dry day, rushing around collecting branches and other ‘burnables’ in parts of the pasture I could access without getting truck and trailer yet again stuck in the mud.

The reason for the hurry: this weekend was the last for outdoor burning. After Wednesday, anything hotter than a cigarette means a minimum $500 fine.

Yessir, according to the City of Abbotsford, fire season has begun, despite what are possibly the wettest and coldest April and May on record.

But, regardless of the weather, council rubber stamps an arbitrary date in which it is determined – no matter the weather, the forest conditions, the fact that people can’t get to places to pick up the stuff that needs burning due to swampy conditions – fires will create dangerous conditions.

The same can be said for supporting the bureaucratically driven date for lawn watering restrictions. The tap was effectively turned off on that issue May 1, and from that date until October the best you can do is twice-a-week watering.

However, it is not the restrictions that concern me, it is when and why they are imposed on an arbitrary date. Note the reference above to April and May. Note also the fact that it is still snowing in the mountains, that reservoirs are being lowered across B.C. and in Washington State in anticipation of huge run-off volumes. There will, for weeks to come, be water ‘wasted’ because the reservoirs cannot hold the volume aleady there, let alone what is on its way as the snow-pack melts.

Yet turn on the sprinkler in Abbotsford and the bylaw officer and his ticket book may come a-knockin’.

As for open fires, I don’t see the need for them at any time of the year in an urban subdivision setting. What little wood waste is generated should go to the dump or the recycling depot.

In rural areas, people usually have the space and the occasional need for a fire, and do it in a sensible, safe manner. After all, the fire department is usually a long way away. And as someone who lives in what is now known as a forest interface, I am cognizant of the potential for devastation by fire.

However, it looks and sounds ridiculous to prevent someone from lighting a fire when the fields and forest floors are so wet almost nothing could ignite them.

So I have to wonder, does it ever occur to council members, when agreeing to ban something for which there is no purpose for the decision, that they look foolish?

I am fully supportive of imposing restrictions when it is for the greater good, when it is necessary to preserve water or prevent fires from consuming homes and forest.

Shouldn’t common sense prevail when setting the date to impose restrictions, for example when the weather dries out, when the reservoirs are full without spilling over or the fire danger rises above ‘couldn’t happen’?

All you need to do is click on Weather Network and look at the long term forecast.

Eight of the next 12 days call for rain, the daily low temperatures don’t appear to go above 10 degrees.

But someone in the bureaucracy decided the abolition dates, based on vague expectations that every year is the same, and that in some distant past May was hot and dry, preceded by an equally dry April.

And council, not quite getting the ‘optics’ of questionable decision-making, merely agrees without ever taking the time to simply look at the weather outside the window.

My only hope is that they make other, more important and significant, decisions based on both empirical and current evidence, tempered with the question “Does this make sense?”





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