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

Joanne Smith has been visiting Goldstream Provincial Park since she moved to Langford two years ago. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Visitors flock to Goldstream Provincial Park for 2020 salmon run

‘I wanted to come here before I move back to Australia,’ says visitor

Emily Harris (centre) started the in-person Monarch Moms meet-up groups in July, when it was much easier to physical distance in outdoor spaces. Harris started the group as a source of connection for women navigating the ups and downs of having a baby during a pandemic. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria new mom group navigates challenges of motherhood in a pandemic

Monarch Moms meet once a week for physically-distanced connection

The Takaya inspired sculpture currently in Kent Laforme’s outdoor studio. The 25,000-pound piece of Vancouver Island marble could be installed on Cattle Point. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Stone Takaya sculpture could soon ‘howl’ at Cattle Point

Oak Bay inviting public suggestions for 25,000-pound marble sculpture

Langford city hall is evacuated Oct. 22 after a CO2 sensor went off. (Randi Battersby/Black Press Media)
Langford City Hall evacuated after CO2 sensor activates

Langford Fire Rescue and Fortis BC are on site

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau is seen as she leaves media event during a campaign stop in West Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green leader hopes voters see value in minority government

The Greens received nearly 17 per cent of the popular vote in 2017 yet received just three seats

Local candidates Pam Alexis, Abbotsford-Mission, and Preet Rai, Abbotsford-West, look on as NDP Leader John Horgan main streets in Abbotsford, B.C., Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. NDP takes snap election risk during pandemic in quest for majority government

Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said the election was unnecessary and irresponsible during the pandemic

Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, B.C., on October 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. Liberal Leader maintains confidence as campaign tests party identity

Liberal campaign has been disrupted by controversy

Most Read