Port Moody Fire Rescue (PMFR) has sent firefighters and a wildland squad unit to 100 Mile House for deployment to help battle several wildfires in B.C. interior.
But the effort won’t compromise the department’s ability to respond to any kind of incendiary incident in its own backyard even as the city boosts its fire risk to high, said deputy fire chief Kirk Heaven.
“We would never leave ourselves in a vulnerable position.”
Heaven said the crew and truck, which is equipped with special pumps, hoses and water tanks that allow it to extinguish fires in remote locations, will be out of town for seven days. During that time, the firefighters will gain valuable experience they’ll be able to use back home, should the need arise.
And the inevitability of such a need is becoming more and more real as an increasing number of days pass without rain, Heaven said.
The extreme heat wave in late June, when temperatures tickled 40 degrees for four days, exacerbated already dry conditions. And while the slight moderation of daytime highs and the return of cooling nights has diminished the risk somewhat, Heaven said a return to extreme risk of wildfire conditions in Port Moody is only a day or two of scorching heat away.
“We’re definitely hyper-sensitive to it,” he said, adding the department takes its guidance on rating fire risks from Metro Vancouver and the BC Wildfire Service.
Heaven said the increasing number of periods of high and extreme fire risk in recent years is no illusion.
“They seem to be happening more and more,” he said. “The coastal area is dry and we haven’t seen it this dry so consistently in years.”
To better manage the risk, PMFR has been bolstering its specialized equipment and four senior staffers recently completed a course offered by Wildfire BC that raises their skill sets in commanding a wildfire incident.
“We’re very proactive,” Heaven said. “We stay on top of it.”
In addition, the department is actively promoting its FireSmart program that educates homeowners about ways to minimize the risks to their property from an encroaching wildfire as well as ways to prevent becoming the spark for such a conflagration.
Heaven said arranging for a firefighter to do a free assessment is as easy as a phone call to the department’s non-emergency number or email through PMFR’s FireSmart website. Any recommendations they make that result in expense to the homeowner to implement can be offset by a grant of up to $500.
“We’re in it together,” Heaven said. “We can’t do it ourselves.”