Sooke Fire Rescue gears up for wildfire season

Residents encouraged to clear area around home of combustible debris as wildfire season begins

Sooke Fire Chief Kenn Mount

With wildfire season already beginning, a near-record dry season and the COVID-19 pandemic occupying the time of first responders, Sooke Fire Rescue is encouraging residents to be fire smart.

Using guidelines from the country’s FireSmart program, Sooke Fire Rescue will educate community members about things they can do to protect their homes and surrounding areas from wildfire.

READ MORE: Pandemic forces BC Wildfire Service to adapt as it prepares for burning season

The fire department is preparing by hosting online information sessions, as well as small in-person evaluations for firefighters, and refresher training on the use of wildfire equipment, Fire Chief Kenn Mount said.

Recently, the department kicked off wildfire season with the annual Readiness Conference Call Workshop, which included neighbouring fire departments, local chiefs, the Capital Regional District and emergency coordinators.

“We have implemented an alternative training plan to adhere to social distancing,” Mount said.

One of the major focuses for SFR’s wildfire preparedness training is “structural protection training,” and learning how to operate equipment on the structure protection unit trailer.

Mount said the SPU trailer holds hundreds of feet of hose, multiple sprinklers, ladders, tools and more, which firefighters must refresh their skills on annually on how to operate the equipment efficiently.

“There is a lot more to it than just putting water on a fire,” said Mount, adding the trailers are kept at a specific standard in order to help lesson the impact, should a wildfire breach the community.

“It takes a unique skill set to use all of the equipment; to set up sprinklers properly, understanding how to use portable pumps and proper hose connections, using lifts … all of that sort of thing requires revisited maintenance.”

The single trailer would allow the department to protect around 20 to 35 homes if a wildfire were to move towards Sooke.

Right now, Mount said, the fire risk in Sooke is low, but he wants to remind the public to be “fire smart.” There is a province-wide ban on all open burning, aside from small campfires for cooking.

With the current burning prohibition, and people spending a lot of time at home, things have been relatively relaxed in Sooke. Mount said the department has not had to respond to many emergency incidents, and people have “been good” with not setting their kitchens on fire while cooking at home.

In early March, Sooke Fire Rescue was responding to several burning complaints every day, as some people were not following the current restrictions. However, Mount said things have started to improve, and residents are being more mindful of their neighbours when it comes to burning.

“It took some time for these measures to trickle through, but I think people are starting to appreciate how important air quality is right now,” said Mount.

Mount added that now is a great time for people to fire smart their homes and properties. Information on how to do so can be found on firesmartbc.ca.

To report a wildfire, please telephone 1-800-663-5555 or *5555 from a cellphone.

*** SIDEBAR ***

This is the perfect time for residents to start protecting their homes from wildfire, says Sooke Fire Chief Kenn Mount.

Residents are being asked to clear gutters and roofs of debris like leaves and nettle and also clear about a 10-metre distance around the home if possible.

Combustible items like foliage, debris, yard waste and boxes should be moved away from homes as well.



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

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