Dry conditions and high fuel load around Chilliwack spells fire danger

From the backyard to the beautiful back country around Chilliwack, it's really dry out there. People have to be extra careful.

It's dry out there! Low snow pack levels in the upper Fraser watersheds for spring 2015 and much less rain is taking its toll. The Chilliwack area has already seen a few hedge fires

Don’t even think of flicking that lit cigarette butt right now.

From the backyard to the back country in Chilliwack, it’s really dry out there.

That means heightened fire risk and extra vigilance by everyone is needed to prevent fires from breaking out, say officials.

By comparison to this time last year, it’s about 20 per cent drier, said Lisa Axelson, fire prevention education officer with the Chilliwack Fire Department.

Low snow pack levels in the upper Fraser watersheds this spring and much less rain is taking its toll.

The Chilliwack area has already seen a few hedge fires, bark mulch fires, and grass fires, and the Fraser Valley Regional District has had to put out a few wildfires.

Axelson is an avid hiker, and said she noticed the impact of much less rain than usual in the region’s typically damp forested areas.

“It’s very dry and that means lots of dried out fuel on the forest floor,” she said.

Anyone heading up the popular Teapot Hill, for example, will notice it’s even dry in areas that usually stay moist.

“The fuel load is just huge,” she said.

Anyone using incendiary devices, including smoking materials, need to make sure they’re not dropped onto bark mulch, flicked on highway medians, or carelessly extinguished on the forest floor in the back country.

A lit butt can smoulder for hours.

“The smoker could be miles away by the time the fire flares up,” she said.

The BC Forest outlook for fire season of June 4 noted the low-snow pack and dry conditions.

There were 392 wildfires already reported across B.C., and that’s even before fire season started. Most were due to lightening strikes. The 10-year average was only 285 fires.

Pine beetle kill is a factor because dead wood adds to the fuel loads.

There were 39,278 hectares burnt as of June 4, according to the season outlook, compared to the 10-year average of only 7,869 ha, which is almost five times as many.

“So everyone needs to be monitoring what they’re doing in the backcountry as well as in their own backyards.”

Be careful with wood and fuel. Ensure safety with hot coals from barbecues by transferring them into a steel bucket.

Make sure the embers are out before they go into the composter.

Stay on top of it by checking out the Facebook page, Chilliwack Fire Department, run by Axelson.

Coastal Fire Centre officials announced June 10 that Category 2 and 3 open fires are prohibited until Oct. 16, and the expansion of the existing prohibition is to “help prevent human-

caused wildfires and protect public safety.” The prohibition covers all BC Parks, Crown lands and private lands within the Coastal Fire Centre.

It does not prohibit campfires that are a half-metre high by a half-metre wide or smaller, and does not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes. Specifically, the prohibition applies to:

* the burning of any material (piled or unpiled) smaller than two

m in height and three metres in width;

* the burning of stubble or grass fires over an area less than 2,000

sq.m.;

* the use of fireworks, firecrackers, sky lanterns, burning barrels or

burning cages of any size or description; and

* the use of binary exploding targets (e.g., for rifle target

practice).

About eight L of water should be kept available onsite to properly

put out the fire. Campfires must never be left unattended and must be

completely extinguished before leaving the site.

To report a wildfire, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a

cellphone.

For the latest on wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, see  http://www.bcwildfire.ca

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/chwkjourno

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