FIRE SMART: Don’t put off being FireSmart

Vernon Fire Rescue Services needs you to help us help you

Iwill do it tomorrow. I have other things I need to do first. I have got lots of time left.

All of these thoughts occupied my mind over the last couple of weeks as I procrastinated the writing of another article on the importance of being FireSmart.

After all, how many times do people need to hear that we are going to have a dry, hot summer in the Okanagan that is once again going to increase the risk of forest fires?

“That is the nature of the beast in the Okanagan. We have dry hot summers every year and Vernon has always made it through without much problem. What’s the big deal?”

Unfortunately, a catastrophe is not something that we can always predict using recent history.

Ironically, the belief that a major wildfire only happens somewhere else and not in the North Okanagan is partly due to efforts of making sure it doesn’t.

Some of the lack of concern can also be accredited to the myth that the danger of wildfire is a rural problem, and we city folk don’t need to bother.

But as we have learned from Slave Lake, Alta., and Kelowna, wildfire has the capacity to impact our personal safety and cause extensive damage to our property whether we live in heart of the city or on its edge. Being prepared for one needs to be everyone’s concern.

Granted, luck does play its part. A timely rain, a change in the wind, or the right resources at the right time are examples of just some of the good fortune that has played a significant role in helping us avoid any dramatic wildfire events in our past.

But even the luckiest gamblers know that luck is not always going to be on their side and when it is time to fold.

Now is the time to strengthen your bet and increase your chances of surviving a wildfire.

No more procrastination. The time is right now to take the simple precautions that will help protect your home and family from wildfire.  So on that note, here once again are the simple things you need to do to make your home just that much safer:

Home:

Remove all combustibles (firewood, lumber, debris piles) a minimum of 10 metres away from the house.

Remove all dead needles and leaves from your roof and gutters.

Clean dead needles and leaves and any combustibles from underneath home openings (decks, porches) and skirt or screen those openings.

Ensure all eaves and vents are screened (attic vents, soffits).

Ensure your fireplace chimney is screened, has been recently cleaned, and is free of overhanging branches.

If you are thinking of changing your roofing, use a ULC class A (non-combustible) roofing material such as metal, clay/ceramic tiles, Unicrete recycled rubber, or asphalt shingles.

Yard:

Rake and remove all dead and/or down vegetation (trees, shrubs, needles, leaves, grass) from your yard and within a minimum of three metres from your house.

Remove flammable vegetation next your house (juniper, native grasses, spruce/pine/fir trees).

Keep your grass regularly mowed or weed-whipped and use the sprinkler to keep it green and moist.

Ensure your outdoor fire pit is in a safe location and surrounded by a minimum of one-metre of non-combustible surface cover (gravel, concrete).

Remove flammable vegetation (grasses, shrubs, trees) for a minimum three metres area surrounding your propane tank.

Other:

Develop an evacuation plan and ensure all family members are aware of it.

Ensure you have enough hose and sprinklers to reach the top of your roof and a ladder to install them when necessary.

Have some fire tools on-hand in a readily accessible spot (axe, shovel, water can).

Vernon Fire Rescue Services needs you to help us help you. Just a little effort can make such a big difference when comes to protecting your home and your family from tragedy.

Take the time and don’t procrastinate.

Give yourself the benefit of being prepared and the chance to enjoy another fantastic North Okanagan summer.

Lawrie Skolrood is deputy fire chief for Vernon Fire Rescue Services.