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Summer brings increased fire risk

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 11:06 PDT, Thu July 22, 2021

Deputy chief reminds residents of province-wide burning ban

Hot and dry summer months bring increased fire risk.

But people can help prevent wildfires from spreading by following fire bans and informing fire crews, says Richmond Fire-Rescue deputy fire chief Jim Wishlove.

“There’s a complete burning ban not only in the city, but across the province,” he says. “If people are wanting to burn garbage or burn leaves or burn clippings or any of that stuff, that’s completely prohibited right now. (But) if somebody has a gas barbecue, they are allowed to use that as long as it’s safe and not underneath a low-hanging tree or bush.”

Anyone who sees, hears or smells smoke or fire should call 911 and let fire crews know, Wishlove adds.

A small interface fire happened July 8 at Richmond Nature Park. The B.C. government website describes an interface fire as one that has “the potential to involve buildings and forest fuel or vegetation simultaneously.”

“It was called in through 911, our crews responded, located the fire and extinguished it very quickly,” says Wishlove.

He adds that the Richmond community has responded well to situations that were previously problematic, including fires caused by cigarette butts.

“In the city here in years past, we did have an issue with cigarette butts causing a lot of fires in the medians on the road and in hedges and shrubs on the side of the road,” he says. “(But) it’s becoming more apparent that people are starting not to do that.”

And with increased fires comes smoky air. Wishlove advises people to pay attention to air quality advisories, available through Vancouver Coastal Health and re-issued by the city.

“It’s typically advisable to keep windows and doors closed and stay indoors, especially if you suffer from health problems or respiratory problems” he says.

Those who are outside and need a break from the air quality can go to a library branch or another public building like a shopping centre. Anyone who is working outside in poor air quality should wear a mask that will filter out smoke particles, like an N95 mask or better.

While the recent fire at the Nature Park was able to be extinguished quickly, Richmond crews also helped out with the more serious situation in Lytton. Wishlove says provincial emergency management teams will survey a situation and determine if the place affected has sufficient resources to manage the situation alone or if they will need more help.

“When we get that call—which is rare, but we did get that call—the first thing we do is review what our current situation is here in the city: do we have enough resources to service the community and share a resource with the province on their request,” says Wishlove.

Richmond Fire-Rescue was able to lend the resource to Lytton, and put together a crew and truck to send there. That group became part of the team managing the wildfire situation that began on June 30 and resulted in a full evacuation order.

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