RMOW Environmental Coordinator
The interface forest fire raging around West Kelowna right now may seem distant, but the reality of living in a bone-dry forest environment exists in every Whistler backyard.
The British Columbia Forest Service announced early this week the conditions in Sea to Sky Forests are as dry as those around Kelowna and the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation in our region has created perfect conditions for forest fire potential in and around Whistler. Any time we talk about fire, we also need to talk about water - a resource needing conservation every day of the year, hot or not.
Whistler's Fire Danger Rating Notice has been "High" for most of this summer. As of July 17 that rating went to "Extreme," meaning no fires are allowed. In parks, no open flames such as torches and briquette or wood barbecues are allowed. Propane barbecues may be used only if they are not on the grass and are not near any trees (the propane barbecue would be on a stand or of a commercial or household design). In residential areas no wood barbecues are allowed. Propane or briquette barbecues may be used only if they are used in a safe manner and have proper clearance from structures and meet municipal regulatory requirements.
Now what about your lawn? Not a single Whistler resident or business would want to receive a $2,000 fine for failing to comply with posted water restrictions, better known as the "Sprinkler Bylaw" 1538, 2001. Unfortunately, most Whistlerites may not be aware that during the dates when this bylaw is in effect, June 1 to Sept. 1, the capacity to fight fires within municipal boundaries is critically diminished.
Water is one of the most fundamental ingredients of modern civilization, the other being energy. And water has no substitutes in most of its uses; especially when it comes to fighting fires. The time has come for us to start making responsible water-use decisions, especially during the hot summer months; a period that sees excessive amounts of water being taken out of the reservoirs due to sprinkling and not enough water going back in due to dry weather conditions.
In a region that receives significant rainfall in an already water-rich community, it is challenging to accept the fact that our overly consumptive water habits need to change.
However, better understanding of our assumptions around water and awareness of innovative water-saving alternatives will help Whistler residents reduce wasteful water use during the hot summer months, allowing this liquid-gold to be readily available during times of high-fire warnings.