It’s time to become fire smart

New columnist Lawrie Skolrood's, Vernon Fire Rescue Services deputy chief, inaugural fire smart article

Living in the Okanagan, we cherish our spectacular summers and their gloriously hot sunny days. Summer is a time to enjoy the beauty and splendor of all that is offered by the Okanagan’s great outdoors.

However, increased human activity in the forest that surrounds us and the drying of its vegetation by hot weather each year increases our chances of having wildfires. With the right conditions, wildfires can readily burn grass, shrubs, brush, trees and if given the chance, homes.

Every year, all across B.C., interface fires threaten or burn homes, cottages and other high-value resources. If you live in the wildland/urban interface your home may be at risk to wildfire. Vernon continues to grow and has more people building homes in wildland-urban interface areas. Even with all of the wildland and city firefighters’ capabilities and quick response times, these homes are at risk to be lost to wildfire.

Property owners can play a big role in determining how great that risk will be.

By taking some very simple steps, they can make a significant difference in reducing the possibility of losing their homes to wildfire. The best time to reduce the threat is now and not when a fire is at the doorstep. Here are some things that you can do during your spring home and yard cleanup to reduce the threat of wildfire to your home.

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 thinking of changing your roofing, use a ULC Class A (non-combustible) roofing material such as metal, clay/ceramic tile, Unicrete recycled rubber, or asphalt shingle.

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 non-combustible surface cover (gravel, concrete).

Remove flammable vegetation (grasses, shrubs, trees) for a minimum three metre 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 wants you to enjoy the sunny Okanagan’s summer to its fullest:

By protecting your family and home from the risk of wildfire by taking the time to learn how to be fire smart.

By protecting your neighbourhood and city by taking the time to be safe and careful when enjoying our lakes and forests.

 

-Lawrie Skolrood is the Vernon Fire Rescue Services deputy chief in charge of fire prevention.