The summer of 2018 has been a year of unprecedented challenges for citizens, communities, parks, forests and tourism businesses in British Columbia's Cariboo, Chilcotin, Thompson, Okanagan and Kootenays regions impacted by the worst forest fires in history. As of August 16th, 894,491 hectares had burned in BC, 1,029 fires recorded in 2017 and 3,900 personnel fighting in the relentless heat on behalf of those impacted and the thousands evacuated.
As of today, 140 fires remain active in BC as attention is focused on Waterton National Park in Alberta that is fighting for it's life as 33,000 hectares burn forcing a full evacuation from the community and temporarily closing the park.
Down south, our hearts go out to the American citizens also facing unprecedented weather impacts from hurricane Harvey and Irma on communities and long-term impacts on tourism in the USA and the Caribbean countries impacted as cruise lines redirect ships, resorts are destroyed, airports are damaged and the list goes on.
Mother nature has not been kind this year, yet every day we hear of random acts of kindness from local citizens who are reaching out to help others. Gallery Furniture's Grand Parkway store, just outside Houston opened its store for 300 evacuees to find refuge. Closer to home random acts of kindness are occurring such as Dave Wight, owner of the only gas station in Tatla Lake ensured emergency crews had gas before he evacuated his family.
Yet sadly there are those who take advantage of others. I was amazed to read today's headlines of a Texas hotelier facing a lawsuit by the state for price gouging evacuees, raising his prices from $109 to $289 during this tragedy. Kudos to Best Western who cut ties with the property, formerly under their brand. It a statement they affirmed they will stay true to their values "of honesty, integrity, compassion, and service. We were deeply offended and saddened by the actions of this hotel. As a result, we severed the relationship with the hotel."
How we choose to react in times of stress, uncertainty, struggle and challenge defines us. As communities and tourism businesses, who contribute to the economic wealth of communities rebuild, we must all pause and ask ourselves - What can we do to assist?