Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue (KBRFR) is asking Greater Trail residents to be Fire Smart.
Currently in the grip of one of the driest springs on record, fire prevention experts are calling on residents to protect their homes by taking basic precautions outlined by FireSmart methods.
“This year we’re off to a busy start from a grass fire perspective because of not having a lot of rain and a super dry March,” said KBRFR Chief Dan Derby. “We’ve had half a dozen (grass fires) due to the extra-dry spring… It’s a concern and we try to raise awareness that it’s a risk that people need to be aware of.”
Dead cured grass is tinder dry, and discarding cigarettes or other flammable material is especially dangerous during hot and dry conditions and made even more combustible during periods of high winds, as was the case when first responders were called to a wildland interface fire that threatened nearby structures in Rivervale on Monday, Apr. 19.
In another incident, fire-fighters were called to a fire caused by a resident burning grass left unattended and the hedge caught fire.
Derby insists that home owners resist the urge to burn their grass, and undertake simple yard maintenance to keep their homes and property safe from wildfires.
“Burning grass seems to be a right of passage for a lot of people, and people don’t understand the risks that are associated with it.”
When asked if there was an alternative, “Yes,” Derby said. “Don’t burn your grass!”
The BC FireSmart Committee recommends simple steps to drastically reduce a property’s risk, such as cleaning roofs and gutters, mowing your lawn regularly, and moving combustible materials 10-30 metres away from your home.
“What people can do to reduce the risk through landscaping is significant,” said Derby.
Wildfires can be potentially devastating especially in cities like Trail where much of the housing inventory was built pre-1980s when many homes were constructed without FireSmart materials.
“We do have neighbourhoods around our area from Rossland to Fruitvale that are in that interface, intermix zones and they weren’t built with the same considerations for spark arresting, that sort of thing, or screens to prevent the sparks from going in.
“So going to the FireSmart website and going through the self-assessment modules to look at what you can do; a lot of it, there’s not really big costs associated with it as managing your own property.”
Homeowners can use the interactive “FireSmart Begins at Home Manual,” which outlines the FireSmart program and how each homeowner can make their property and neighbourhood FireSmart.
“We are drawing on the experience and expertise of BC Wildfire crews, fire chiefs from across BC, and individuals who have been on the front lines of significant wildfires around the world,” said Kelsey Winter, chair of the BC FireSmart Committee.
“All in an attempt to motivate property owners in at-risk areas across the province to take action.”
There are currently no open burning prohibitions in effect within the Southeast Fire Centre. However, it is the responsibility of the individual to ensure that burning is done in a safe manner in accordance with regulations.
“It is our hope that a message incorporating the global wildfire threat with the local focus will resonate with British Columbians, raising awareness of the FireSmart program and encouraging our communities to take steps towards wildfire resiliency.”
Before lighting any fire, it is advised to monitor the upcoming weather forecast and check with local governments to see if any local burning restrictions are in place.
The City of Trail bans outdoor burning year round.