Local fire hazard extremely high
The hot summer night may seem like the ideal time for an evening around the barbecue or the fire pit, but Whistler residents and visitors are being asked to play it cool for the next few weeks.
The local fire hazard rating was raised to "extreme" on Monday by the Whistler fire department, and unless a sudden cool spell or rains blow through town, don't expect the fire hazard to drop.
Jeff Playfair, duty chief with the local fire department, said the municipality has placed a ban on all open fires within the municipal borders and crews have already removed all the barbecue pits from locations like Rainbow Park and Lost Lake. Propane barbecues are still permitted but caution is advised.
Playfair said the dry and hot conditions have also required the municipality to cut back a number of industrial operations throughout the valley.
"A lot of individual activities within forest land in the municipality have also been restricted, and will either have to shut down or operate only in the early morning hours," he said.
For example, Playfair said municipal crews working on a variety of trail clearing and improvement projects will either be curtailing their work or switching to hand tools only until the fire hazard subsides.
The dry and dangerous conditions have also meant restrictions on this summer's remaining construction projects, like the excavation at the Westin Hotel site in the village.
Playfair said the fire rating will have to drop back to "moderate" or down to "high" for at least three days before the local fire ban and industrial shut-downs can be lifted.
The Ministry of Forests is also recommending that residents who live in or near forest areas — which applies to nearly everyone living in Whistler and Pemberton — cut back grass and vegetation which may have grown up around their property or could cause a fire to spread.
The past three summers have seen largely damp conditions and few fires across the province, but a wildfire this time four years ago damaged 18 homes in the Penticton area.