Warm and dry conditions increase wildfire risk

Property owners are urged to "FireSmart" their residences to protect them for fires this spring and summer.

With many parts of the province already experiencing unseasonably warm and dry conditions this spring, homeowners are being encouraged to do their part in preventing wildfires and reducing fire risks.

The FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual has recently been revised, and offers simple tips to help people safeguard their homes and properties from fire. Chief Fire Information Officer Kevin Skrepnek of the BC Wildfire Service says that just because much of our region is a grassland eco-system, not forest, that’s no reason for homeowners to become complacent.

“Embers can blow five to 10 kilometres ahead of a fire,” he notes. “You get very high winds in your area, which creates a nature-made wind tunnel.” Many fires in unforested areas are caused by wind-borne embers from a nearby forest fire.

People might not give grassfires the respect they deserve. “They don’t create the intense heat of forest fires, but they’re very quick and burn very fast.”

A big part of the FireSmart campaign focuses on trees near properties, and while Skrepnek acknowledges that might not be a major issue in the region, there are other steps homeowners should take. “Clean your eaves troughs, and keep propane tanks and wood piles away from your house. Rake up leaves and pine needles and keep your roof clean, with no loose debris on it.”

Other steps to take to protect buildings and properties include thinning and pruning nearby vegetation and trees, making sure trees are spaced far enough apart that fire can’t jump from tree to tree, and removing “ladder fuels” such as deadfall and thick shrubs that allow the fire to spread upward.

“Individual British Columbians play a vital role in wildfire prevention and in protecting their communities from wildfire damage,” says Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations. “I encourage everyone to do their part by working with their neighbours to Fire-Smart their properties.”

The FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1RQXFzd.