Our neighbor to the north, which is famous for its thoughtful, considerate and apologetic ways, has absolutely rebuked the accusations of a “#BlameCanada” movement circulating among Seattle-area residents as the hazy smoke from a dozen raging wildfires in British Columbia settles over the region for yet another day.
“We get smoke from you as well — It’s a free and open exchange,” said Kevin Skrepnik, the chief fire information of the B.C. Wildfire Service, who chuckled politely when asked Friday if it was fair to, in fact, blame Canada.
Just last week, he said, smoke from what is being called the Diamond Creek Fire in Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness caused a “big stir” when it began to burn fast and send smoke drifting into Canada.
Skrepnik explained that the past month’s wildfires had been brutal for British Columbia. It began with an unusually hot and dry June (we can relate), then escalated quickly when a July 7 lightning storm tore through the province and sparked 140 fires in one day.
A state of emergency was declared, but despite a massive firefighting effort, 20 major fires still blaze. More than 1.2 million acres have been scorched in what have been described as Canada’s most devastating fires in 60 years.
The air, which has been atypically flowing from the interior of the North American continent toward the coast, has carried the smoke and particulate matter down to coastal British Columbia and Washington.
Skrepnik acknowledged that remorse was “in our nature,” but refused to bend to the Blame Canada crowd.
Fellow Canadians were just as unwavering.
Travis, a barkeep at Duffy’s Neighborhood Pub in the city of Kamloops, who did not want to share his last name, sounded a bit insulted at the very idea of a conciliatory gesture.
“Do you want us to apologize for Mother Nature?” he said. “Do you realize we have practically every firefighter in the world here trying to fight these fires and it’s not our fault or anything?”
Kamloops is in the smoke epicenter, experiencing the worst air quality it’s ever had with a concentration of fine particulate matter in the air that averaged 684.5 micrograms per cubic meter, twice what China considers hazardous, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Repeated efforts to reach Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were unsuccessful. But another Trudeau, 72-year-old Jerome of Ontario, defended his country unabashedly.
“No,” he replied when asked if the smoky haze was Canada’s fault.
“What should we apologize for? You should apologize to us.”
Comedian Jason Sweeney didn’t say sorry, either, but conceded his country’s fondness for the polite apology.
I’m Canadian. I spend most days assuming I should apologize for everything.