(Originally published 2021) As fire destroyed Lytton just days ago, it might be a good idea to refresh what Lynn Valley residents can do to make themselves FireSmart and take preventative measures to help support the District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service’s efforts to protect the community.
As a community on the border between wildlands and urban areas, the District of North Vancouver has a comprehensive Community Wildfire Protection Plan. One that continues to evolve, grow and provide additional resources to DNVFRS. In fact, it is something they are so good at, firefighters have been deployed this week to help protect communities in the interior.
“In the last three years, I would say it’s doubled, and then doubled again,” said Capt. Conrad Breakey, public information officer for the DNVFRS.
To protect against wildfire there are now two structure protection units (sprinkler systems that protect up to thirty homes) and another on its way, he said. There are also plans to add to their fleet of initial attack vehicles so each hall has one ready to go. These trucks are more like pickup trucks than firetrucks equipped with pumps and forestry gear that can access more areas than a typical firetruck.
“We have close to 75 percent of our crew have structure protection training through FireSmart,” he said. “If a forest fire was breaking through to houses we would go and set up sprinklers ahead of time to create a hydrobubble so those embers can’t jump from house to house to house.”
In further reaches of the district the fire service has combined thoughtful resources with education. As summer approaches it is now implementing strategies to be as ready as possible – especially in the Woodlands neighbourhood north east of Deep Cove where the setting is quite remote, said Breakey.
“We have found a spot that in high and extreme times we are going to stage equipment up there so it is ready to go and we will have crews patrolling all summer, monitoring the gear and equipment,” he said. “It includes a HydroSub – not only can the roads be difficult but hydrants as well; this allows us to throw it off the end of a dock and pump seawater up to where we need to be.”
Ounce of prevention vs pound of cure
The FireSmart education being undertaken by the DNVFRS in Woodlands is something they want to expand to other areas bordering the forest – including Lynn Valley.
“Our major effort is to mitigate – to stop fires from impacting homes before they even start,” said Breakey. “That is the easiest and the cheapest option. We can help educate homeowners to have them in a better position should a fire come through the area.”
The ultimate goal of the FireSmart program is to unite neighbours to be proactive about making better choices. Plans for outreach in Lynn Valley are in the works, with support from grants from the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“The easiest, affordable approach – and not talking about swapping out construction materials like cedar shakes for asphalt shingles – I would say is removing all the fuel from around your house,” said Breaky. “Remove the overhanging branches, clean your eavestroughs, remove pine needles from your roof. Take a look at the spaces under decks where leaves and dead brush might accumulate.
“I know people like having their firewood accessible but move it away. What you have to consider is that if there is a forest fire it is like a snowstorm of embers. Those embers can travel hundreds of metres and land in the woodpiles or a pile of brush. And that tiny little ember will become a fire that was nowhere near the initial fire.”
With the goal to have homeowners take action now, the DNVFRS is offering support to help neighbourhoods be FireSmart.
“We would like to encourage communities that are near the first to connect and reach out to the fire department, so we can get out into the neighbourhood – especially Lynn Valley,” he said. “We can do those community assessments and put a report together. Reach out to us – to me and we can send out a local FireSmart representative and get the process started. We would love to organize a group and have a community champion but anyone who has questions or concerns can talk with us.”
DNVFRS also plans this summer to be present in local parks for fire education and perhaps a spray or two for the kids. A sort of pandemic pivot of their previous year’s Hot Nights outreach. As for the ongoing wildfire prevention programs, Breakey thinks the education and action are paying off.
“We are making quite a few efforts and a lot of progress at the moment.”
Breakey recommends checking out the extensive resources at FireSmart and following the DNVFRS social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) to stay up to date with the latest safety orders or emerging events.