By Yvette Brend
The grandchildren of Annie Kruger remember her lighting an Export A Green cigarette, throwing on her logger's jacket and heading out to set fires near Penticton, B.C.
Before she died she was a firekeeper — as were generations before her in the Okanagan region of the province — and it was her job to use flames to purify the land by setting fire to berry bushes, hillsides and even mountains to renew growth and clear brush and create natural fireguards.
Annie kept up the tradition until she died in 2003.
By then, authorities had long cracked down on the practice, pushing fire prevention hard since the 1960s. Fire became bad, something to battle or ban. Remember Smokey, the iconic bear who doused fire near forests?
Fire prevention experts fear that those policies, launched decades ago, unwittingly created conditions that are now feeding the out-of-control wildfires plaguing California and Alberta — and, in recent weeks, some 240 blazes in B.C.
Experts are urging provinces to adopt more Indigenous burning practices because the long crackdown on constructive burning has built up fodder for fires.