The absence of significant rain on the South Island for numerous weeks has area fire departments on high alert for brush fires.
“I’ve never seen it like this,” said Langford Fire Rescue firefighter and safety inspector Lance Caven. Where normally, brush fires see firefighters from the nearest hall paged to respond, any calls for such incidents are sent out to all three halls, just in case, he said.
While his department hasn’t been extra busy responding to such fires, despite the conditions, he says, Langford Fire Rescue is being proactive in encouraging homeowners whose properties back onto wooded areas to attend a July 11 workshop on how to Firesmart their homes.
“We want people to be extra diligent given the dry conditions. They have to call right away (if they see fire) because of the aggressive nature of fire,” he said.
Aware of the potential for scenarios like the Kelowna fires from a few years back, when wildfires raced along a dry hillside to homes where such combustibles as stacked wood and dry leaves sat nearby, the department will teach residents about removing potential fire interfaces and reducing the risk of disaster.
Firefighters will provide such strategies as cutting off the lower branches of trees closest to the house, to help prevent ground fires from racing up a tree and being blown in the direction of your roof.
“A lot of it is about landscaping, and keeping your lot clean and free of debris,” Caven says.
Two Firesmart sessions are being offered this Saturday at the No. 1 hall at Peatt Road and Veteran’s Memorial Parkway, one at 10 a.m. and another at 2 p.m. Both sessions are free.
The tinder dry conditions have firefighters on their toes making sure they respond quickly to any threat of brush fires, but recent high temperatures have seen them called for more heat-related rescues, including four on Mount Finlayson.
One instance was a person who suffered from dehydration that led to chest pains, two were people who slipped and badly twisted an ankle and another was a large dog that suffered from heat exhaustion and ultimately succumbed. A crew helped get the animal and its owner off the mountain safely.
“People want to get out and take advantage of the weather,” Caven said, but they need to take precautions.
While it’s still warm and muggy, this week’s overcast skies – in combination with the drifting smoke from fires burning on the Island and coastal mainland – has offered some respite from the hot sun.
For more details on Firesmart tips, visit bcwildfire.ca/Prevention or call Langford Fire Rescue at 250-478-9555.