Emerald couple prepared for wildfire season 

Fire danger still not understood by most people

Lynn Turberfield’s family photographs are stashed in a box right beside her front door.

Next to her pictured past there’s a grab-and-go bag full of essentials that includes important documents, a change of clothes, towels, phone numbers and a flashlight.

Her partner, Walter Hasen, has a careful watch over a few pieces of art and Dolly, the family dog.

"We have an action plan to get out of here," said Turberfield, looking up at her home in Emerald Estates, which backs onto a forested wilderness of Crown land – a very dry forest wilderness.

"The more prepared I am, the faster I can assist others."

Turberfield, a volunteer with Emergency Social Services who was helping wildfire evacuees in Kelowna last summer, knows first hand how quickly a wildfire can spread.

As such, she was horrified to see weekend partiers at the house next door toss cigarette butts onto the parched ground below their hot tub in mid-June.

"I thought I saw them but I couldn’t believe that I saw them," she recalled, as she pointed to almost 10 butts on the ground just steps away from her house.

This scenario is a cause for concern for Whistler Fire Chief Bruce Hall, who said smokers must use common sense when it comes to discarding their butts.

"All you need is the right conditions and the right dryness factor and a lit cigarette will easily cause a fire," said Hall.

In fact, some of the most devastating fires last summer were attributed to cigarettes, which were not stubbed out properly.

Though the cigarette butts didn’t spark a fire in Emerald that night, they highlight Hall’s concern about the fire hazard in Whistler, where homes are nestled into the surrounding forest.

"Certainly Emerald is a major concern for us in the sense that it abuts the forest and there’s significant forest in the subdivision itself," said Hall.

"I think if you go out there, in some cases you can’t even see the houses for the trees. To be quite honest with you, that’s no different than Alpine, the upper areas of Alpine and some of the other subdivisions that we have in Whistler.

"I wouldn’t say Emerald is unique It just happens to be the first (neighbourhood to the north.)"

Turberfield and her partner bought their Emerald home one and a half years ago.

Since then there have been four house fires in the neighbourhood. There were roughly seven fires in Whistler on the whole in that same time period.


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