Pine beetle-affected trees burn in the B.C. Interior in 2014. Forests are recovering from beetle epidemic more quickly than expected

Pine beetle-affected trees burn in the B.C. Interior in 2014. Forests are recovering from beetle epidemic more quickly than expected

Editorial: Be prepared for wildfires

Devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., burned down thousands of buildings and displaced tens of thousands of people.

Sometimes it’s hot out, and sometimes it’s burning hot.

Devastating wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., burned down thousands of buildings and displaced thousands of people. Homes and livelihoods were lost. Economic recovery in that region is uncertain, oil and gas industry interruptions will impact the national GDP and further job losses in Fort Mac could be felt even here in Nanaimo.

Fort McMurray isn’t the first community to be harmed by wildfire and it won’t be the last as climate change continues to contribute to the frequency and intensity of natural disasters. As this summer comes and goes, there will be fires closer to home.

If there is wildfire here, will we be ready? The City of Nanaimo Emergency Response and Recovery Plan, updated only a few months ago, has procedures in place. But as individuals, fire probably isn’t something we think about often. We’ve got a remediated, labyrinthine dam, complete with a flood siren. We know how to cower under our furniture and then filter calmly outside for earthquake. Will we know what to do if the flames are licking at Nanaimo’s forests?

A hazard risk and vulnerability assessment commissioned by the City of Nanaimo in 2014 identified wildfire as one of 21 hazards, rating the probability as moderate/likely and the potential consequences as moderate. That said, there are significant portions of the city that are at risk of interface fire, especially in south Nanaimo, areas west of the parkway and neighbourhoods surrounding the Linley Valley.

There are ways to ‘fire smart’ homes with buffer zones free of fire fuel, and keeping secondary zones thinned and pruned. Some measures might be simple; others, depending on our properties and their landscaping, require greater time commitment and expense.

Certainly we can avoid being the ones to start fires. That isn’t enough sometimes, because fire is catching. But we can be fire-insured, fire-drilled and fire-smart, and chances are, we’ll be safe and sound.