Ur­ban ar­eas face threat of wild­fires

Park board bans bar­be­cues as dan­ger read­ings hit ex­treme

The Province - - NEWS - BEHDAD MAHICHI

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.

NICK PROCAYLO

Metro Van­cou­ver parks su­per­vi­sor Marcel LaBreche says bar­be­cues, camp­fires and cig­a­rettes are the main ig­ni­tion sources for for­est fires.

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