The pandemic could be a benefit to wildfire season as more people are told to stay inside, but could impact how quickly fire crews are alerted to smaller-scale fires. (Provided by Chris Jancowski)

Pandemic brings relief and concern for firefighting during coming dry season

‘It’s a double-edged sword,’ says Esquimalt Fire Chief Chris Jancowski

While wildfires aren’t common in Esquimalt and Victoria, both fire departments are doing what they can to mitigate the risks for the coming dry season.

Esquimalt Fire Chief Chris Jancowski says one of the best ways to prevent wildfires or “interface fires” – which are basically grass fires but more likely within city limits – is through human action and awareness.

Jancowski adds that by not participating in high hazard sports that would bring sparks into the outdoors, preparing your home by reducing some of the combustible fuels you may have laying around, cleaning out your eaves troughs and making sure you mostly have “low laying vegetation” around your house are all good ways to prevent fires during the summer.

READ ALSO: Five-year-old Esquimalt boy becomes fire chief for the day

“Typically we have a low to medium risk depending on the time of year and depending on what area you’re looking at exactly,” he says, adding that areas such as Highrock Park are more prone to fire. “The other thing here that we have a challenge with is in the hot summer afternoons … we see the winds pick up, typically from the ocean and that affects grass material.”

In Esquimalt, Jancowski says there are a lot of natural fire breaks as well that aid firefighting during the season with roads, streets and developments changing the landscape. “If there were a grass fire, for example, it would typically run up a street but as soon as it hits the end of the street, as long as there’s not a house that’s poorly defendable we’d be able to grab that fire at the next street.”

READ ALSO: Esquimalt arsonist sentenced to two years in jail, thanks police, defence lawyer and taxpayers

Paul Bruce, chief of the Victoria Fire Department, says a lot of what the department does in Victoria doesn’t really change throughout the year although they do send firefighters to other municipalities to help with wildfires if need be.

“Every summer we’ve gotten in the last few years has seemed to bring its own little events, so the concern is probably just the unknown of what this summer is going to bring. I’m sure that’s shared by a lot of people in regards to COVID,” he says. “It’s almost like a ‘what’s next’ scenario.”

Since the pandemic hit, firefighters have had to change their operations drastically. The most notable of ways says Bruce is “if we don’t have to be in contact with people, we’re trying not to be.”

While the pandemic has people staying inside, Jancowski says that might benefit this year’s dry season with fewer people participating in “bad habits of smoking in parks,” but it also adds to some of his concerns.

“If there’s a small campfire or a natural fire from a lightning strike, we count on the public to detect those early and report them to 911 so we can get onto those fires quicker – so it’s a double-edged sword,” he says.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

bc wildfires

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No architect for Langford building ruled ‘unreasonable’ by B.C. Supreme Court

Legal action brought against City in 2019 for permit issued on Hoffman Avenue building

Pauquachin First Nation calls on North Saanich to help restore shellfish in Coles Bay

The nation identifies ‘residential onsite septic systems’ as one of sources of contamination

SEAPARC solidifies plans for Sooke summer camps

Facility set to reopen to the public

Pool deck turns patio as Saanich restaurant cooks up creative outdoor seating options

District supports local businesses such as The Lakes Restaurant in creating seating

Colwood drive-thru window smashed after suspect receives burger without mustard

Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Search and rescue crews help locate 62-year-old Nanoose Bay mountain biker

RCMP: Man got lost on trail and did right thing by calling for assistance

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Most Read