Whistler fire season in 'full gear' July, August 

Wildfire Preparedness Day set for May 6

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY BC WILDFIRE SERVICE - LATE SEASON Whistler's 2017 fire season is expected to take place in July and August, according to the BC Wildfire Service. Pictured is the Elaho wildfire in 2015.
  • PHOTO courtesy BC Wildfire Service
  • LATE SEASON Whistler's 2017 fire season is expected to take place in July and August, according to the BC Wildfire Service. Pictured is the Elaho wildfire in 2015.

Whistler's 2017 fire season likely won't shift into full gear until July and August, according to the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS).

"There's always a caveat around that," said Robert Dombowsky, forest protection officer with the BCWS, at the April 25 Committee of the Whole meeting.

"But July and August are more than likely going to be our fire months down here."

As of April 1, the areas around Whistler had 123 per cent of the normal snowpack for this time of year, while the areas north of Prince George were sitting around the 70 per cent area, Dombowsky said.

"So we're more than likely going to export our resources. That isn't uncommon for us at the front side of the year when there is no fire load here," he said.

"That's not to say that we empty the cupboard — we always keep resources here, and they're always on an agreement. They're on a short hook, so if we get into June and we're on that tipping point of getting into the fire season, then we'll retain resources."

When fire season begins in earnest, the BCWS has helicopters positioned throughout the valley with crews on standby, Dombowsky said.

"And that's a five-minute response, so we would have them positioned in Squamish, Pemberton and in Whistler," he said.

"So if need be... there will be crews available to respond to fires, and that is especially true around when we already have large project fires on the go. It's very important for us to take those initial attack fires and keep them from getting any larger."

And if the flames get out of hand in one area of the province, resources can be shifted.

"We're a fluid organization with incident management teams in place to respond to anything that the local zone cannot get under control. Within 24 hours, an incident management team can be deployed to an area," Dombowski said.

"There is quite a few resources provincially that are available to us anytime, and if the need comes then we will go internationally to have more resources available."

The BCWS has mutual aid agreements with Australia, Africa and New Zealand. One such agreement was put into action in the summer of 2015, when 104 Australian firefighters came to assist local crews in fighting the 1,300-plus fires that broke out during B.C.'s peak fire season.

On a local level, the Whistler Fire Rescue Service (WFRS) is responsible for responding to wildfires within municipal boundaries, and will respond to all wildfires that are accessible from a municipal road.

When that isn't the case, BCWS will respond and the two will work together to manage the fire.

If BCWS isn't able to respond quickly, the WFRS has the option of calling Blackcomb Helicopters if necessary.

A Wildfire Community Preparedness Day is planned for Sat., May 6.

A FireSmart booth will be set up at Nesters Market from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with WFRS staff on site with copies of the recently updated FireSmart Homeowner's Manual. Residents can also register at the booth for a free FireSmart home assessment.

Also from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., RMOW staff will be making the rounds to local neighbourhoods with a truck and chipper to collect trees, limbs and brush.

To have the chipper swing by your property contact FireSmart coordinator Scott Rogers at 604-966-4173.

Head to www.whistler.ca/firesmart for more info.

Residents are reminded to report all wildfires by dialing *5555 or 1-800-663-5555.

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