Capt. Carl Trepels advises rural Saanich residents to take an active role in protecting their properties this wildfire season. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Rural Saanich residents urged to take preventative steps ahead of wildfire season

Saanich Fire Department expects another hot, dry wildfire season

Saanich firefighters ask residents to take an active role in protecting their properties during what is expected to be a hot, dry wildfire season.

As warmer weather returns to the Island and another wildfire season approaches, the Saanich Fire Department is encouraging the public to take action to protect homes and properties.

Wildfires are a “natural phenomenon” in B.C. and prevention is part of what Capt. Carl Trepels calls “the rural reality.”

Large wildfires have burned across the province repeatedly over the last several hundred years, he told Black Press Media. About half of all wildfires in B.C. are caused by lightning strikes which is considered to be the only natural cause of wildfires. The other half of the wildfires are caused by humans.

In 2017 and 2018, B.C. residents experienced “the worst wildfire seasons on record,” Trepels said, noting that a provincial state of emergency was declared both summers.

While everyone is encouraged to take measures to prevent human-caused wildfires, he said people living in or near forested regions should also take steps to reduce damage in the event of a fire.

Trepels said there are more than 2,300 homes in rural Saanich – many in or near forested areas.

“These are the homes that we want homeowners to FireSmart,” he said. “This is the perfect time for residents to have a look around their property and take steps to create a defensible space.”

The FireSmart Home Owners Manual – available for free on the Government of B.C. website – outlines steps residents are encouraged to take.

“Home and yard maintenance at this time of year is important and should include removing combustible debris from your roof and gutters, limbing trees approximately two metres from the base and, for larger properties, creating a fire-resistive zone within 10 metres from your home,” Trepels said. He added that the zone should be widened if the property is on a slope.

Trepels also recommends keeping grass trimmed, pruning vegetation away from structures, ensuring home addresses are clearly visible from the road and moving woodpiles away from homes, fences and other structures. To check if a tree is protected under the Saanich Tree Protection Bylaw, contact municipal staff at parks@saanich.ca or 250-475-5522.

Those with chimneys should also ensure a spark arrestor is installed and eaves and vents are enclosed to prevent sparks from entering, Trepels said. Non-combustible or fire-resistant materials are also recommended for roof replacements and tempered glass should be used in windows as it keeps out heat.

For more FireSmart tips, contact the Saanich Fire Department at fireprevention@saanich.ca or 250-475-5500.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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