Tuesday 19 September 2017

Campfire Ban Lifted

As of today, the campfire ban has been lifted within the QIFD district. The burn ban (category 2) is still in effect however. Please feel free to visit https://www.quadrafire.org/current-conditions.php#cat2 to see what that includes. Thank you

Saturday 2 September 2017

Chainsaw Ban

Due to the extreme weather and heat wave we are having we are implementing a chainsaw ban on the island within the QIFD fire district. Please refrain from using your chainsaw until further notice. If you have any questions feel free to submit them to https://www.quadrafire.org/contact.php.
Thank you

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Smoke expected to hit the coast

We may experience some smoke in the next few days. Due to weather conditions the smoke from the wildfires in the interior is expected to reach the coast this week.

For the full story please check out https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2017FLNR0200-001367.

Thank you

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Fort McMurray…Lessons Learned

After a snowy winter and a wetter than average spring, the last thing on most peoples minds is wildland fire prevention.  That being said, a couple of weeks of dry hot weather can change conditions quickly. This is a great time to conduct a FireSmart evaluation of your property and take a few simple precautionary steps.

Recently, I read a report, titled “Why some homes survived: Learning from the Fort McMurray wildland-urban interface fire disaster” as written by Alan Westhaver  M.Sc. for the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction. At 70 pages, this is a detailed study of how FireSmart principles affected the outcome of Fort McMurray home survivability during the worst urban-interface fire event in Canadian history.  There is no way for me to summarize all the details but there were a few nuggets of information.

There are thousands of wildland fires in Canada every year and this number is increasing.  Wildland fires that impact urban communities are also increasing in frequency and structural loss magnitude, most notable being Kelowna (2003) - $200 Million, Slave Lake (2011) - $750Million and of course Fort McMurray (2016) - $4Billion. These are the worst of the worst but the numbers are definitely on the rise. As stated by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministries (2016) “there has been a serious and sustained increase in extreme wildland fire behaviour and wildland-urban interface events”. The wildfire problem is dynamic due to population growth/redistribution and encroaching recreational and industrial development. Definitely two factors prevalent here on Quadra. The most sophisticated models suggest a Canada wide increase of 2 to 4 times in annual area burned, greater fire intensity, lengthening of the fire season and higher rates of spread.  These are unavoidable facts. We all live in a fire zone and we need to learn how to deal with it.

In Fort McMurray, 90,000 people were evacuated. Over 2400 homes and major structures were directly affected or destroyed. Many of the neighbourhood communities were well planned based on FireSmart principals. In addition, there were natural features such as the Athabasca River that were thought to provide adequate wildfire firebreaks. Unfortunately, no one was truly prepared for the intensity and speed of the blaze. Fort McMurray was simply overwhelmed in every measure.

There were homes that survived even inside neighbourhoods where destruction was complete. There were also homes completely destroyed inside neighbourhoods that suffered minimal fire damage. How does this happen?

The investigation pitted FireSmart evaluation principals against direct evidence of outcome. What was more than evident was:

  • Firebrands (burning airborne embers) from the approaching blaze were a key contributor to spot fires well in advance of the fire front. These spot fires were distributed throughout Fort McMurray and took many homeowners by surprise as the fire front itself may still have been a great distance away. The firebrands accumulated like glowing snow in corners and under combustible materials.
  • Vegetation within the 10-meter zone of a home either benefitted its survivability or was a key contributor to destruction. This correlated directly to plants being either coniferous or deciduous and to their placement in relation to fire exposure. This was often the home Achilles heal with ornamentals such as Mugo Pine, Juniper and Cedars within 1 to 3 meters of an eave or window. Conversely, well-watered deciduous landscaping elements actually provided some level of fire protection.
  • Fire pathways via structures (fences or sheds) directly adjacent the home contributed greatly. Contents such as stored building materials, firewood, ATV’s, motorcycles, boats, and lawn mowers when combined with volatile fuel sources from onboard fuel tanks, gas cans and propane tanks produced high intensity long duration ignitions.
  • An estimated 70% of the homes had vinyl siding and surprisingly, many of those homes survived. Vinyl siding would melt off from radiated heat but not necessarily ignite. Depending what building material was underneath, the home either survived or ignited. As well, double pane vinyl clad windows and doors often survived and maintained structural integrity.
  • Fine surface fuel accumulations as well as wood chip landscape mulch directly beside the home contributed greatly to rapid fire spread.
  • Untreated vegetation in priority zone 3 (30 plus meters away) did not seem to provide any correlation as to which home survived and those that were destroyed. However homes with FireSmart treatments inside of Priority Zone 1 (up to 10 meters surrounding the home) and Priority Zone 2 (up to 30 meters surrounding the home) improved odds by as much as 80%.
  • Wooden decks with combustible contents above and below had a huge impact. Even the decks age and maintained condition were contributing factors. Older decks often had accumulations of fine debris in the deck cladding gaps. Areas directly below the deck were often tinder dry with many combustible items in storage. Planters as well as deck furniture became fuel from whirling firebrands collected on surfaces.
  • Condition of the surrounding landscape was a major issue. Short cut and irrigated lawn surrounding the home proved to be a significant barrier. Long dry grasses simply spread the fire path directly to the home.
  • Roofing materials such as asphalt shake and metal proved their worth as significant barriers to fire ignition. However, if the roof and gutter system were debris filled, the risk of ignition dramatically increased. Older asphalt shake roofs with curled edges also proved to be significant hazards, again, collecting points for firebrands.
  • The homes of Fort McMurray proved to be as much a source of fuel for fire as did the surrounding forest. One home ignition often led to another. If the majority of homeowners within a neighbourhood were generally practicing FireSmart principals but certain individuals chose not to participate, then the entire neighbourhood became endangered. The FireSmart process must be a complete community-based effort.

The findings described above are far from comprehensive and clearly do not do justice to the report in its entirety. What it does do is reinforce fundamental FireSmart principals.

  • Have an evacuation plan with the steps every member of the household must take. You may only have minutes and most likely you will not be calm and rational.
  • Add to your FireSmart protective arsenal with a Sprinkler Protection System. It can create a high humidity zone around your home. This can include rooftop and deck surfaces. Even running them for an hour before an event will significantly increase the odds of survivability.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to hook up and run the SPS set up. This needs to be routinely practiced.
  • Remove and transplant coniferous landscape elements that are placed too close to the home.
  • Clear your gutters and rooftops of debris.
  • Use a leaf blower and rake to remove fine fuels from the immediate vicinity of your home.
  • If a fire emergency has been declared and if you have time, move garden furniture and combustibles at least 10 meters away from the home.
  • Consider limbing trees and clearing brush debris for as much as 30 meters surrounding your home. It can be done in stages.

For information on the FireSmart evaluation process as well as additional mitigation suggestions, please visit -www.regionaldistrict.com/media/199511/Firesmart_Homeowners_Manual.pdf

We live in a natural rural environment where we must learn to coexist with fire. Take precautionary measures now well in advance of a potential fire event.

Mike Gall – LFR
Quadra Island Fire Department

Thursday 6 July 2017

2017 Campfire Ban

The campfire ban is now in effect. Please visit our current conditions page at www.quadrafire.org/current-conditions.php for more information on what this ban includes.

Thursday 23 March 2017

QIFD Test Repeater Site Operational

QIFD has been using its new temporary repeater system for over 2 months now and what a difference it has made.

For many years, QIFD struggled with poor radio coverage while performing emergency services on Quadra. Many a time, when in the shadow of certain topographic obstruction, the portable radio and pager performance was challenged making coordinating field activities difficult. Back in 2013, our concerns were raised with North Island 911 Corp who own and maintain our repeater system. North Island Communications was then contracted to create a suitable communications solution. Through radio frequency predictive propagation software, a potential site was proposed at the crest of Heriot Ridge, very close to the Heriot Ridge trail. Although from an RF engineering perspective, this location was perfect, it represented a significant infringement on the aesthetic values of the island. Through a public meeting process, several concerns were raised and the proposed site was deemed unsuitable.

With help from members of the Quadra Outdoor Club and Quadra Trails Committee as well as other concerned citizens, a new alternate site was scouted and proposed. Action items included conducting a biological survey to identify endangered plant species, design the system for the new location topography, insure RF propagation was suitable, conduct a new site Survey and re-apply to Land and Forests for location approval. The biologist survey was conducted and identified one threatened plant species. The plant location was marked and protective measures were taken to prevent harm.  The new radio site location was well away from Heriot Ridge hiking trail and below any viewpoint sightlines. In fact, unless you knew where to look, it would be virtually invisible. On paper, the RF propagation looked satisfactory and all involved parties agreed to proceed with next steps.

Under the application process, a temporary test and evaluation system is eligible for installation to prove out strengths and weaknesses of the proposed system. It was decided to install a self-contained test system running on solar panels to charge batteries. The radio equipment operates in the VHF frequency band at a relatively low power. The equipment yurt would be green and the antennae tower maintains a very low profile. There would be no roads, trails or power lines as everything was designed to be completely self-contained and minimize impact. The system was pre-built in Campbell River and then helicopter slung into position.

Success so far! The radio tests we have conducted have been phenomenal representing a quantum leap in improving our communications system performance. Virtually all regions within the QIFD fire protection district now have both portable radio and pager coverage. North Island 911.com has provided an excellent communications system solution helping QIFD insure the safety of our volunteer members during emergency calls. RCMP and BC Ambulance will also benefit from this location when they add their communications equipment post final approvals. We are now in the reapplication phase and as part of due process, a public input meeting is required to address any concerns Quadra residents may have and this will be well advertised in advance.

Prior to the official general public meeting, we are conducting an informal information session to answer any questions and pre-addresses any issues. This will be held at the QCC - Room 3, 7:00 PM, Wednesday, April 5th. Please enter via the South doors.

If you have any immediate questions or concerns regarding the final development of this repeater site, please contact Mike Gall at 285-2491 or by email mickeeg@gmail.com.