smokey bear holding a shovel and pointing with the words "only you"

British Columbia’s wildfire season is off to its busiest start in 10 years. As of noon, May 13th, category 2 open fires are prohibited in the Coastal Fire Centre. Open burning restrictions remain in effect until October 21, 2016.

The severity of the fire season depends on a combination of factors, including: snow pack, wind, precipitation, type of vegetation and terrain, lightning strikes, forest floor moisture content, fuel loads and drought levels.

While it’s too early to tell what this year’s fire season has in store, it’s not too soon to start thinking about how to best prepare yourself and your property for the fire season ahead.

With this in mind, we’ve included info from an earlier post, to help prevent, and in the event that it happens, be prepared for, wildfires.

10 Wildly Successful Wildfire Prevention Tips

1. Have a plan — Like most things in life, having a plan can seriously mitigate the harm caused by unexpected events. Develop a written or verbal fire prevention and management plan, appropriate to the level of fire risk and hazard on your property, and make sure everyone who works on your property knows the plan.

2. Know your trouble spots — Being aware of potential problem areas can significantly reduce the risk of problems arising. Take stock. Have a clear inventory of low and high-risk areas on your property.

3. Be prepared — The boy scouts were onto something. Knowing what to do when a situation arises is essential. Ensure you and your operational personnel are adequately trained and equipped to conduct safe and effective fire suppression duties.

4. Have the right tools — Knowing what to do is one thing, having the proper equipment is another. You and your crew should have access to an inventory of appropriate fire management resources and equipment. Now is a good time to check on your inventory and make sure you have enough supplies on hand and everything is in good working order. Tools include:

  • Hand tools
  • Pumps
  • Retardants
  • Water supplies
  • Tanker trucks

5. Know how to get to your water — Make sure you have clear access to your water source. If a winter wind storm knocked over a tree and it’s obstructing your ability to get to your pond, this is a problem. Take a tour of your property and make sure any obstacles preventing easy and quick access to your water sources are removed.

6. Know when not to operate — Knowing when to shut down your operation is key. It’s important to monitor weather conditions and pay close attention to fire danger ratings. During high-risk weather conditions avoid any activity that might cause sparks.

  • Fires
  • Machines
  • Equipment
  • Chain saws
  • Cigarettes

7. Know thy neighbour — Sharing resources is a great way to maximize capacity while minimizing costs. It’s worthwhile having a conversation with near-by neighbours to consider a cooperative fire management strategy. Working together can help reduce your expenses and increase your efficiency.

8. Manage your forest’s fuel load — Fires need fuel to burn. Seasonally appropriate prescribed burning can significantly minimize forest debris and reduce the risks of fires starting in the first place. Check out an earlier post to learn more about responsible prescribed burning.

9. Nobody cares about your land as much as you do — 9 out of 10 forest fires are caused by human beings. You invest considerable time, effort and resources managing your forest land. Not everyone is mindful of fire risks. Restricting public access to your land during periods of high and extreme fire risks is the best way to help reduce the risks of fire on your property.

10. Report wildfires immediately — Perhaps this goes without saying, but in case it doesn’t, report wildfires immediately to the appropriate authorities. To report a wildfire, please call directly to the Coastal Fire Centre Dispatch Centre Emergency Line at 250-951-4200, or alternately to 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on cellular networks.

Here’s some information about the terminology used to describe a forest fire we borrowed from the Coastal Fire Centre’s Spring 2014 newsletter.

 The Anatomy of a Forest Fire

diagram showing the different parts of a wildfire

The anatomical parts of a forest fire are:

Bay(s) — A marked indentation in the fire perimeter, usually located between two fingers.

Finger(s) — An elongated burned area(s) projecting from the main body of the fire resulting in an irregular fire perimeter.

Flanks — Those portions of the fire perimeter that are between the head and the back of the fire which are roughly parallel to the main direction of spread.

Head — The portion of the fire perimeter having the greatest rate of spread and frontal fire intensity which is generally on the downwind and/or upslope part of the fire.

Back — The portion of the fire perimeter opposite the head; the slowest spreading part of the fire.

Island(s) — Area(s) of unburned fuels located within the fire perimeter.

Point(s) of Origin — The location(s) within the fire perimeter where ignition first occurred.

For more information on wildfire prevention and response contact the Wildfire Management Branch of the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.