Prevention key to stemming local wildfires

With the summer sun and heat comes many things — lazy days at the beach, boating on the lake, lots of laughs and memories.

With the summer sun and heat comes many things — lazy days at the beach, boating on the lake, lots of laughs and memories.

Wildfires are also a staple during the summer months and although its been a slow start to the hot weather, steps are already being taken to ensure wildfires are kept to a minimum.

Since the beginning of April, the Southeast Fire Centre has seen 18 fires, 15 of those person-caused. This time last year, there was a total of 31 fires, 25 of those caused by people.

Karlie Shaughnessy, fire information officer for the centre, attributed the low number of fires to the lousy weather the area experienced in previous months, but said that the high number of human-caused fires was concerning.

The majority of those were the result of backyard or industrial burning that either escaped their confines or weren’t tended to properly.

The centre has preventative measures in place, such as fire restrictions and new campfire regulations, to help keep wildfire risks low.

Trail has been incorporated into a regional community wildfire plan, to be finalized over the next few weeks, according to Fire Chief Terry Martin.

Both Martin and Deputy Fire Chief Dan Derby said there’s a very limited risk of wildfire within

Trail until you get out to the inter-mixed zone, and forested areas.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s just the first step of a couple — then you’ve got to do the mitigation work which is required after you get a plan in place,” said Martin. “It’s a great document but you’ve got to do the work that the folks who produce the document recommend.”

The city of Rossland just completed its wildfire mitigation earlier this month, successfully clearing more than 22 hectares of public land of surface fuels — things like dead wood and trees, low-lying branches and other fire hazards.

Don Mortimer, Rossland’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan coordinator, said the city will be putting up signs in areas that have been cleaned so that residents can have more information about what they’re seeing and how they can apply it to their own properties.

This is being done because the money that makes these plans possible is only to be used on public land, which means that any fire mitigation work done on private lands is up to the owner.

Mortimer said he believes the city is now much less vulnerable to a high-intensity fire close to town, should one occur. He encourages private landowners to follow the city’s lead, adding that if capable, most of the work can be done by the owners themselves.

“A lot of people who live in rural areas are fairly capable of using a chainsaw and raking, pruning and things like that, piling the wood and things like that, so in that case it really doesn’t have to cost them more than sweat equity.”

For those who would need to contract the work out, there are specialists in the area.

Upkeep of the areas would have to be done every few years or so, but the city has not committed to any timeline yet as they wait to see whether or not funding will still be available, he said.

It’s recommended that homeowners pick up the FireSmart Homeowners Manual, available at city hall and local fire departments.