Urban areas face threat of wildfires
Park board bans barbecues as danger readings hit extreme
As the fire danger edges towards the extreme this summer, officials across Metro Vancouver are working to prevent wildfires in urban areas.
On Monday, the Vancouver park board imposed a ban on charcoal barbecues in anticipation of a higher fire danger reading.
“In light of … the extreme heat and drought situation, we’re taking precautionary measures,” said Yann Gagnon, manager of park operations.
Late Monday, fire ratings in several Metro Vancouver parks in the Fraser Valley were upgraded to extreme — Aldergrove, Campbell Valley, Derby Reach and Glen Valley regional parks in Langley were affected. also given to an extreme fire danger reading. Thwaytes Landing Regional Park on Indian Arm was upgraded to extreme as well.
Other regional parks remain at a high rating.
“The weather is a little bit drier and hotter in the valley,” said Marcel Labreche, the Metro Vancouver parks supervisor.
When the fire risk hits extreme, Metro parks teams increase their fire patrols, with firefighting equipment at hand.
Fires in Metro Vancouver municipalities are largely caused by barbecues, campfires and smoking.
“We’re concerned about all those ignition sources,” Labreche said. “At this stage, people should have ash containers for briquette barbecues. Sometimes people think they’re extinguished so they throw them out, but they can smoulder. Same precautions for cigarette butts in bushes.”
Vancouver Fire Rescue is keeping a close eye on Stanley Park and Everett Crowley Park in Vancouver and the Pacific Spirit Park in the UBC Endowment Lands.
“We have 13,000 acres of very tinder dry forested areas,” said Michael Heslop, a spokesperson for Vancouver Fire. “Stanley Park specifically has had some pretty large fires over the years. Our fire prevention branch has done some pre-emptive research into those areas to identify areas of high concern.”
Heslop said that on July 12, a cigarette butt caused a grass fire on Knight Street, resulting in considerable damage to a building.
Vancouver Fire has received approximately 30 grass-fire calls in the past month, while the park board said it received more than 20 over the past two weeks.
In municipalities like the District of North Vancouver, which has large wooded areas, preparing for fire season is a yearlong task. Through the year, teams clear the underbrush of forested areas of excessive dry branches and debris.
“It’s always an ongoing effort because we have so many areas across the North Shore to deal with,” said Brian Hutchinson, the district’s fire chief.
“There’s not a lot of distance between where the urban area ends, and where the wild-land area begins, and there’s pluses and down sides to that.”
A fire in an urban forest would pose a closer risk for homeowners. But high foot traffic on popular North Vancouver trails gives the fire department additional eyes to detect fires while they are small.
“We have a ban in place for all smoking material in our parks, we’ve got the barbecue ban in place, and we encourage people that if they see something, or smell something, to immediately call 911,” Hutchinson said.
Metro Vancouver parks supervisor Marcel LaBreche says barbecues, campfires and cigarettes are the main ignition sources for forest fires.