The 2018 wildfires in the British Columbia charred many thousands of square kilometers and reduced entire towns to ashes, triggering scary memories of the severe 2017 fires that forced 65,000 people from their homes. In Canada, peak risks occur April through September but veteran forecasters warn of significant fire activity for this year into October. Businesses and homeowners can prepare now to reduce risk of wildfires and reduce the risk of damage to property if a wildfire occurs. Smart preparation follows a three-step process: Prepare & Practise, Prevent and Defend.
Prepare & Practise:
Gather important documents – titles, insurance documentation, birth certificates and the like – and create a visual and written record of belongings. Store these documents in a safe deposit box or a fireproof box if keeping them at home. Develop and share an emergency plan to protect against fire and guide evacuation if necessary. Finally, practise fire drills with employees or family.
Nine of 10 wildfires are started by people, usually out of carelessness. To avoid sparking a wildfire in your area, extinguish all smoking materials completely before discarding. Avoid backyard burning if possible – whether it’s yard waste or a conversational fire pit – and take particular care during windy weather. Never leave any fire unattended and completely extinguish all embers by dousing with water and stirring ashes until cold.
Experts talk about creating a defencible space around property, which provides room for firefighters to control and extinguish fires. To build that space, remove flammable items like dry underbrush and dead branches from property and trim any tree limbs near structures that are lower than four meters from the ground. Stash outdoor furniture inside when not in use and select non-flammable landscaping such as gravel instead of mulch. Store remaining fuel sources properly: stack wood at least 30 meters away from buildings.
Modify structures to reduce flammability inside and out, with measures such as choosing tile, slate or asphalt shingles. If building new, explore flame-resistant designs and materials such as Insulated Concrete Forms, which reportedly resist fire for up to four hours. Test sprinklers and smoke alarms regularly and station fire fighting equipment such as shovels, buckets and hoses in easily accessible areas.
Finally, it behooves businesses and homeowners anywhere in Canada to prepare thoroughly for fire season: nearly 8,000 wildfires occur yearly across the country.