The City of Port Coquitlam will be strengthening its response to deal with intense heat in the wake of a BC Coroners’ report that found hundreds of people died during last year’s heat dome.
The provincial service linked more than 600 deaths to the extreme heat, with 93 per cent of them occurring during the week of June 25 to July 1, 2021.
As many as 14 people died in Coquitlam, the report states, which found that chronic disease and age were a factor.
Many didn’t have access to cooling options, such as fans and air conditioning, and more than half of those who died lived alone.
When will a heat emergency be declared?
Port Coquitlam fire chief Robert Kipps said the B.C. government is taking steps to improve ambulance response and provide critical alerts, and the city will be doing what it can to create safer conditions for residents in the case of extreme heat.
“As of last week, experts are now forecasting above seasonal norms in Port Coquitlam in mid-August,” Kipps told council during its regular public meeting on Tuesday (June 22).
Among the steps being taken include establishing two misting stations in denser neighbourhoods on the city’s north side and making a plan so the Port Coquitlam Community Centre (PCCC) could be open longer to act as a cooling centre.
“We’re currently looking for the right areas of town to run this,” said Kipps.
“We’re currently focusing on the north side of town and areas with high density.”
Alertable, the city’s new emergency app, will also be updated to notify residents in the event of high temperatures.
Kipps said the province will declare an extreme heat emergency when temperatures reach 33 degrees during the day, when the evening mercury is above 18 degrees and a three-day trend of increasing temperatures is forecasted.
As hot weather is predicted for this weekend and early next week, B.C.’s chief ambulance officer has ordered emergency health services to its top alert level, potentially making more ambulances and dispatchers available.
How will Port Coquitlam fight wildfires?
With so much of PoCo’s residential neighbourhoods located near forested trails along Hyde Creek and Coquitlam River, Kipps said it’s become crucial for the city to ramp up its capability to fight interface fires and wildfires.
They can start as a grass fire or as a small blaze in the forest that shoots embers up into the sky, which can land on local rooftops.
All PoCo firefighters have achieved provincial certification in fighting wildfires, Kipps told council, while a new mapping system shows how wide each trail is so the right-sized equipment can be used to get to the blaze.
As well, a trail marker system established along the Traboulay PoCo Trail will be complete this summer.
The numbered signs show where someone is on the trail so they can easily pinpoint their location when calling 911 in the event of a fire in the woods.
Rooftop WASP wildfire prevention sprinklers have been purchased for residential homes that can be snapped onto home gutters and attached to residential tap water to dampen roofs and vegetation in the event of a wildfire, Kipps aid.
New foam systems have also been purchased for the Medic II truck so that fire fighters can quickly douse a grass fire “so we can get ahead of it before it gets wind driven or made larger.”