By Andrew Mitchell
Despite the heavier than normal snowpack in Whistler, the fire hazard rating for the community is already in the High range, prompting a ban on campfires and backyard burning, and the removal of public barbecues from local parks.
According to Assistant Fire Chief Geoff Playfair, the hazard rating jumped from Low on Tuesday morning to High on Tuesday afternoon.
“Definitely things are on the rise, and that’s to be expected at this time of year,” said Playfair. “Although the projection shows us dropping back to Moderate for the next couple of days, just by looking at the forecast for the next couple days that isn’t going to happen… we want people to know that our hazard rating is rising and rising rapidly, and temperatures are expected to approach 30 degrees this weekend.
“That’s good news, but the bad news is that the rise of temperatures is starting to dry out our forests, and the trails are already looking dusty. We want to make sure people are careful out there and, if they see something, to give us a call as quickly as they can.”
The fire hazard rating is not expected to jump to Extreme this week, which would impact construction in the forest interface and even close Crown lands to recreation in certain cases. Playfair also expects the hazard rating to drop again next week, as the forecast calls for rain.
Provincially, the forest fire situation is quiet right now, allowing B.C. to send 141 fire crew members to Ontario and another 64 to Quebec to battle large fires in those provinces that were largely the result of dry conditions and a lightning storm.
In the larger Coastal Fire Centre (CFC), of which Whistler is part, just 19 fires were reported to date, burning an estimated 17 hectares of land. None are currently active.
According to CFC spokeswoman Sue Croft, all 19 fires were human caused.
“We usually get very little lightning activity on the coast, and the breakdown is around 60 per cent human caused and the other 40 per cent caused by lightning,” she said.