Going into another fire season, local volunteer firefighters received valuable structural protection training this past weekend.
Members of the Bouchie Lake, Kersley, Ten Mile and West Fraser volunteer fire departments spent two days learning the SPP115 structure protection program May 12 and 13 at their training grounds across from the Quesnel Airport.
“Structure protection is a big, growing field with regard to the amount of wildfires that have been increasing,” said Bill Wacey, a structure protection specialist with BC Wildfire Service, who is also the co-ordinator of the structure protection deployment for the province. “When it comes to structures that have been threatened, 2017 and 2018 have been kind of the watershed moments of the big changes, so we implemented a program, which we now have a training program through BC Wildfire Service where we’re now training more and more fire departments in the deployment of the structure protection trailers that fire departments are now acquiring. We’ve probably done about 65 training days since April 1, and there are eight instructors right now that we are working through with the new SPP115 course.”
Wacey says they have been going through the Interior training small departments in the deployment of the Structure Protection Unit trailers, which are filled with different types of sprinkler heads, portable pumps and a water bladder system.
“There is an interest across the province in acquiring and stocking these trailers,” he said. “It’s another great tool in the deployment of fire suppression when it comes to protecting structures. At the end of the day, it’s a very simplistic tool with regards to the protection of structures — garden hoses, sprinklers and a water supply.”
Wacey and the other structure protection specialists will teach fire departments structural triage, giving them the ability for a five-person crew to come in and triage a structure or set of structures, fill out a form and go to the trailer and grab the necessary equipment and then deploy what they call a set over a group of structures.
“The intent behind the whole program is to create, besides the obvious wetting of the structures and the surrounding areas, to create a humidity bubble,” said Wacey. “We can dramatically increase the humidity around a structure, which will, in turn, create an area in which the ember storms, the ember showers, the firebrands, it will make it much more difficult for them to land and to light any of the structures. In most cases, 15 minutes of a proper set will increase the humidity by up to 20 to 40 per cent.”
Wacey says there are 24 Type 2 trailers — which is the type the local departments were training with this past weekend — across the province, and they are owned by private contractors and fire departments. They can protect up to 35 structures, while the larger Type 1 trailers, of which the Province owns six, can protect up to 70 structures.
“This year, there’s actually a large increase in fire departments that would love to start putting these trailers together for the protection of their own communities,” said Wacey. “It’s a fabulous tool in our fire department toolbox.”
Firefighters say FireSmarting a property can help make this type of structural protection work more effective.
“If people can get their homes FireSmarted, that will help,” said Barb Bachmeier from the Bouchie Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
Bachmeier, who is also the Area B (Quesnel West-Bouchie Lake) Electoral Area Director for the Cariboo Regional District, encourages local residents to learn more about FireSmarting at two free FireSmart Community Champion workshops being co-ordinated by the City of Quesnel in early June. There will be a workshop June 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bouchie Lake Hall and June 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Parkland Community Centre. While the workshops take place in Bouchie Lake and Ten Mile, they are open to everyone. Bachmeier says they need a minimum of eight people to RSVP to each workshop to run them.
“Simple housekeeping outside is going to stop that creeping fire,” noted Wacey. “A lot of the structures we lost last year, it was that creeping fire.”
To learn more about the workshops and how to register, contact Amanda Vibert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-255-5808.