On the West Shore and across British Columbia, wildfires are becoming an increasing threat.
More rainfall has directly impacted the amount of vegetative growth throughout the spring. As the season progresses, temperatures increase and that vegetation dries out by summer. This accumulation of vegetation will directly contribute to the intensity and rate a fire spreads.
To help prepare residents for wildfire season, Black Press Media asked Langford Fire Rescue to share some tips from the FireSmart program.
The aim of the FireSmart program is to teach residents how to create a landscape that will help wildfires remain as low-intensity ground fires. Fires that remain on the ground as surface fires are easier to control through suppression activities and allow firefighters to focus their attention on saving homes.
Wildfires destroy many homes with embers or sparks. Embers are burning pieces of debris that can be carried ahead of the flaming front by up to two kilometres. This means residents do not have to live in a home that backs onto a forested area to be affected by wildfires. These embers can land and accumulate in combustible materials such as dried vegetation, lint in open vents, and personal items stored against the home.
The following are some simple, cost-effective steps residents can take to protect their homes and properties from wildfires.
- Clean up debris, such as leaves, pine needles, and branches, out of gutters, eaves and along the roof
- Clean up surface fuels such as dead grass, dry shrubs, leaves, pine needles, brush, and deadfall
- Regularly mow and water lawns
- Prune out lower branches on trees
- Properly store away combustible materials
- Move firewood and construction materials away from the home
- If away during fire season (May to September), store flammable personal items like patio furniture in a shed or garage
- Install weather proofing on exterior doors and garage doors
The above steps require little time but can make a big difference in a home’s survivability during wildfire events.
The one misconception a lot of people have about the FireSmart program is that everything must be completed before wildfire season begins. This is not the case. Many of these simple steps can be done all year long.
Langford Fire Rescue, along with many of the West Shore fire departments, is offering residential FireSmart risk assessments for residents. A member of the fire department will meet residents on-site and assist in identifying wildfire risks on the property while offering mitigation strategies.
To schedule a free assessment in Langford, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Langford’s FireSmart webpage at langford.ca/residents/public-health-and-safety/firesmart. Other West Shore residents can contact their fire department to learn more about the FireSmart programs available.
In the event of a fire
If you see a fire approaching your home, report it immediately by dialling 911, unless you know authorities are already aware of the fire.
Take the following actions only if you have time to do so safely before the fire arrives at your home. When possible, divide the following tasks amongst family members and predetermine who will do what in the event of a wildfire so each member knows their role and there is no confusion.
☐ Close all windows and doors.
☐ Prepare your vehicle for a quick getaway. Park your vehicle unlocked, with the keys in the ignition and positioned forward out of the driveway. Keep car windows closed and have what you need to take in your vehicle.
☐ Turn off propane or natural gas.
☐ Place a ladder to the roof against the front of the house.
☐ Inside the house, move combustible material such as curtains and furniture away from the windows.
☐ Put lawn sprinklers on the roof and turn on the water.
☐ Move all combustibles away from the house including firewood, lawn furniture, etc.
☐ Evacuate your family and pets to a safe location.
☐ Watch goldstreamgazette.com and social media channels for up-to-date information on the fire and possible road closures. Do not call 911 to find out road conditions.
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