Trail Times file photo

Warm weather prompts Kootenay Boundary fire warnings

Grass fires, overwintering fires, a concern across B.C.

Burning in backyards and “overwintering” fires in the wildland are two potential perils that may emerge in the Kootenay Boundary as weather warms this spring.

Read more: Fire consumes trailer camp near Trail

Read more: Quick action prevents fire from spreading to trees

Other than monitoring by professionals, not much can be done to prevent the latter, which is a flare-up caused by residual smouldering hot spots left over from last year’s wildfires.

And in Trail, because the wildfire behind the regional hospital burnt right to the dirt last September, the fire department is not overly concerned about an overwintering fire in that particular zone.

“Having said that, we are going to have a look at it because of where it is,” said Fire Chief Dan Derby from Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue. “We still have a couple of findings as a result of that fire … and, as a result of our de-brief, we are going to look at fire risks associated with the hospital and school properties.”

As far as burning on private property, however, there are measures a landowner can take, and must, so that igniting a limited amount of yard waste doesn’t inadvertently require a 9-1-1 to the fire department.

“A big risk associated with burning in the spring is dry, dead grass under the snow,” said Derby. “So while they might be planning to burn just a little yard and garden waste, all of a sudden ‘poof’ they’ve got a grass fire and it’s threatening a structure, which is obviously a concern,” he continued.

“There’s already been a couple of instances across the province where there has been pretty good grass fires associated with spring burning” he said.

“So when people are doing their spring clean up, first they need to know if they are legally allowed to burn where they live, and they need to know the risks associated with fire.”

Open burning is banned year-round in the City of Trail. However, surrounding municipalities and electoral areas have their own fire safety regulations which include various restrictions such as the size of fire permitted.

For those allowed to burn in their yards, having proper tools and a hose handy is, of course, a no-brainer.

More so, Derby advises all homeowners, no matter where they live, to be prepared and “FireSmart” year-round.

Creating a buffer between a home and the grass, trees, scrubs, or any wildland that surrounds a structure is essential. Taking preventative measures such as removing combustible surface material within 10 metres of a home will have the biggest impact, as will pruning trees within two metres of the ground and spacing trees three meters apart.

“We are already putting our equipment back on our trucks for wildland firefighting,” said Derby. “And some of our members are attending training … with BC Wildfire Service .. to ensure we’ve tightened up our response as we’ve been working together quite a lot these last number of years, and it has gone very well,” he added.

“But what can we do to improve that, (is why) fire departments from across the Kootenays are coming together in a couple of weeks.”

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