The pandemic could be a benefit to wildfire season as more people are told to stay inside, but could impact how quickly fire crews are alerted to smaller-scale fires. (Provided by Chris Jancowski)

Pandemic brings relief and concern for firefighting during coming dry season

‘It’s a double-edged sword,’ says Esquimalt Fire Chief Chris Jancowski

While wildfires aren’t common in Esquimalt and Victoria, both fire departments are doing what they can to mitigate the risks for the coming dry season.

Esquimalt Fire Chief Chris Jancowski says one of the best ways to prevent wildfires or “interface fires” – which are basically grass fires but more likely within city limits – is through human action and awareness.

Jancowski adds that by not participating in high hazard sports that would bring sparks into the outdoors, preparing your home by reducing some of the combustible fuels you may have laying around, cleaning out your eaves troughs and making sure you mostly have “low laying vegetation” around your house are all good ways to prevent fires during the summer.

READ ALSO: Five-year-old Esquimalt boy becomes fire chief for the day

“Typically we have a low to medium risk depending on the time of year and depending on what area you’re looking at exactly,” he says, adding that areas such as Highrock Park are more prone to fire. “The other thing here that we have a challenge with is in the hot summer afternoons … we see the winds pick up, typically from the ocean and that affects grass material.”

In Esquimalt, Jancowski says there are a lot of natural fire breaks as well that aid firefighting during the season with roads, streets and developments changing the landscape. “If there were a grass fire, for example, it would typically run up a street but as soon as it hits the end of the street, as long as there’s not a house that’s poorly defendable we’d be able to grab that fire at the next street.”

READ ALSO: Esquimalt arsonist sentenced to two years in jail, thanks police, defence lawyer and taxpayers

Paul Bruce, chief of the Victoria Fire Department, says a lot of what the department does in Victoria doesn’t really change throughout the year although they do send firefighters to other municipalities to help with wildfires if need be.

“Every summer we’ve gotten in the last few years has seemed to bring its own little events, so the concern is probably just the unknown of what this summer is going to bring. I’m sure that’s shared by a lot of people in regards to COVID,” he says. “It’s almost like a ‘what’s next’ scenario.”

Since the pandemic hit, firefighters have had to change their operations drastically. The most notable of ways says Bruce is “if we don’t have to be in contact with people, we’re trying not to be.”

While the pandemic has people staying inside, Jancowski says that might benefit this year’s dry season with fewer people participating in “bad habits of smoking in parks,” but it also adds to some of his concerns.

“If there’s a small campfire or a natural fire from a lightning strike, we count on the public to detect those early and report them to 911 so we can get onto those fires quicker – so it’s a double-edged sword,” he says.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

bc wildfires

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Camp fun still offered in Greater Victoria

Easter Seals offers day camp options to replace cancelled overnight camps

Swim advisory issued at Cadboro Bay beach due to high bacteria levels

Island Health advises against water activities, swimming

UPDATED: Saanich firefighters investigate early morning fire at elementary school

Fire crews remain on scene at Strawberry Vale Elementary

Saanich councillors scurry to ban rat poisons on municipal properties

A ‘small but important first step’ to protect local wildlife, councillor says

No swimming or skating at Juan de Fuca rec centre for now

The Q Centre to reopen starting on July 13

VIDEO: Langford cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

BREAKING: Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

Most Read