Editorial: Fire Smart
While some rainy days in June allowed wildfire fears to dampen on Salt Spring, the sense of relief is temporary.
No precipitation is anticipated for the next two weeks, putting us back to a more expected summer weather pattern.
The fact that a devastating wildfire has not struck the Gulf Islands in the past few years can only be attributed to heightened fire safety awareness on the part of residents, swift responses by our fire department and provincial government resources on occasions when fires were ignited, and dumb luck.
Minimizing damage to both natural and built environments caused by future wildfires has been on the minds of Salt Spring Fire Protection District officials, among others. Salt Spring Fire Chief Arjuna George recently asked the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee to consider implementing a Wildfire Hazard Development Permit Area. Such a DPA would guide development of future subdivisions to implement FireSmart principles, which include creating “defensible space” around buildings, and mandating fire-resistant roofing and construction materials.
“Specifically, Wildfire Hazard DPA guidelines, as seen in other B.C. jurisdictions, generally intend to reduce fire risk by ensuring adequate setbacks between buildings and the forest edge through use of fire-resistant building materials (e.g. metal roofing, glazed windows) and practices, and by removal of debris or fuels within the defensible space immediately adjacent to structures,” explained George.
Of equal concern is that out-of-control wildfires will destroy significant areas of forest cover and natural amenities of the islands’ unique ecosystem.
For people still not convinced that wildfire is a real danger to Gulf Islanders, or those who want to know what can be done to mitigate the impacts, the Salt Spring Forum’s next speaker is an expert on the topic. Ed Struzik, author of Firestorm: How Wildfire Will Shape Our Future, is at the centre of a discussion at ArtSpring this Sunday night.
As promotional material for Struzik’s book states, “Wildfires can no longer be treated as avoidable events because the risk and dangers are becoming too great and costly.”
Maybe the weather forecasts will be wrong and the islands will have more rainy spells this summer than in recent years. If so, that would be great, as it would give us that much more time to plan for reducing wildfire risk and devastation.