The question in the headline is one we always hear this time of year.
What the wildfire forecast will be is a reasonable question to ask, but the reality is, no one knows. Bad wildfire seasons generally come in two-to-three-year cycles, so given last year’s devastating season we could reasonably expect another active fire year. However, the Environment Canada’s seasonal forecast for BC is for a colder and wetter spring.
The statistics tell us wildfire seasons in general are getting longer and more severe. This coming season could be worse or less severe than last year, but the trend suggests the frequency and duration of wildfires will continue to increase. This means we need to stop thinking season-to-season. Instead, we need to have a long-term plan.
Snow is off the ground now in most areas of the North Shuswap and many residents are likely well into their spring clean up and maintenance. With the CSRD FireSmart Program now entering its fourth year, we sometimes hear from residents that the process of FireSmarting their property can be overwhelming. This is exacerbated in the middle of an extreme wildfire season, like last year, when people are frantically removing hazards from around their homes.
The reality is most residents would have a difficult time FireSmarting their property over a weekend, a summer or even a year. But if you start chipping away at hazards each spring, fall or weekend throughout the summer, over the course of the year or a couple of years, you will have a FireSmart property. Small steps add up over time and we know they make a difference.
FireSmart can be an overwhelming topic, but every property owner in the CSRD has access to a free home and neighborhood wildfire hazard assessment. Through a provincially funded grant, you can have a trained professional help you identify hazards and develop a priority plan to reduce them. The CSRD FireSmart web page is also full of information and tips to reduce risk.
FireSmart principles are proven methods that reduce property loss and damage due to wildfire. It takes a bit of education and some effort, but you might be surprised at how many are very simple.
Don’t wait until we have a wildfire to start thinking about what you can do. Leaving hazard mitigation to the last minute is not as effective as constantly working towards risk reduction.
Instead of asking what the forecast will be for this season, let’s assume sometime in the next three years, we will have another record-breaking season. That is a reasonable time frame where any resident can dramatically reduce their risk with some planning and effort.
Article by: Len Youden, CSRD FireSmart Coordinator, re-posted after printing in the North Shuswap Kicker
Photo: An image of the White Rock Lake Fire burning near Falkland.