Chief Charlie Boyte's report for August 2011

Michael Boyle

It seems like it has been raining for 40 days and 40 nights and I am sure you have wondered why the Fire Hazard Signs move from low to high and back again to moderate.

There is a good reason. The Ministry of Forests (MoF) sets the threat level based on factors not immediately apparent to the hundreds of islanders and vacationers cursing the on and off summer. MoF measures the moisture content in the ground and the ability of forest fuels to ignite and these conditions can vary daily.

With so many visitors arriving on the island, many by boat, the risk of someone forgetting the fire hazard can change quickly increases the potential for a catastrophic mistake. Small fires can get into dry root systems and forest fuels and spring to life days or weeks after they are thought to be out. This often happens when the sun heats up the soil and moisture levels drop. This is one of the reasons for the CRD Burning Bylaw that prohibits open fires in July, August and September.

For the past few years, Deputy Chief Mike Dine, with the help of our neighbouring Southern Gulf Islands Fire Departments, has facilitated an aggressive 10-week campaign at Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal to reach non-resident Gulf Islands property owners and tourists to educate them on the unique fire risks in the islands and precautions they must take.

The prevention work at Swartz Bay encompasses education and awareness of regulations regarding building materials, burning, lot marking, driveway clearances, and many others precautions. This is our first line of defence.

Our second line of defence is early reporting and effective fire department response to keep fires small. Once a wildfire gets big, as we saw in Slave Lake, the fire takes control and suppression then focuses on saving humans and minimizing damage.

We have had several reports of people tossing cigarette butts out their car windows. Please let us know if you see this irresponsible behaviour. Take the licence plate number and note the location of the incident. Call *5555 on your cell or 1-800-663-5555. The MoF will issue fines and levy charges for the costs of suppressing a fire that starts from this dangerous practice.

It is also extremely important to note that you are now required by law to have working smoke detectors in your home or summer cottage. This includes any building that has sleeping accommodations. You can now be held criminally responsible if someone is injured or killed because they were not alerted to smoke in a building. Fires or smouldering materials found in modern homes create smoke that contains carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. These silent killers can overcome you while you are sleeping or awake. If there is smoke in the house get out and stay out and call 911 as soon as possible.

Forest Fire Threat Level

Burning is permitted
No permit is required
Regulations apply


Michael Dine

Deputy Chief
Technical Rescue

PIFR Members Only

For any Emergency:

call 911


250 629-3321


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