A busy fire season and high fire danger ratings present a new set of hazards for forestry operations. Changing forest fuel types and dramatic weather patterns (e.g. wind and storm events, heat waves, etc.) seem to be elevating the risk of catastrophic fires. But, no matter where you operate, two things – preparedness and reporting – can make the difference between a small blaze that is quickly brought under control, and a wildfire emergency.
“No, I don’t think you’re wrong, Tom. I caught a faint whiff of smoke on my way into the block this morning, too. Let’s take a few minutes and check it out.”
“Sure thing, Darren. I’ll let the crew know where we’re headed. We should stop by the fire tool cache and grab a little extra gear just in case it turns out to be something. Have you got the satellite phone?”
“I do. Actually, why don’t we check with the crew working in Upper Twin Creek; maybe they can see something we can’t from down here?”
Being ready to respond promptly and effectively is key. Given the limited resources most loggers have on site, you have a much better chance of controlling and extinguishing a small fire. Delays due to disorganization and hurried, ineffective actions can allow a small fire to quickly grow to dangerous proportions beyond the capacity of your crew and equipment. There are several aspects to consider:
Even if it’s only a small fire, take a few minutes and report it to the BC Wildfire Service at 1-800-663-5555 or call *5555 toll free on most cellular networks.
The information you provide helps the fire management centre determine the nature of response – the actions they undertake and what resources are sent to help fight the fire. When you call, the operator taking the call will ask you the following.
As with any emergency, the reporting and communication pieces are essential for successful outcomes. Two-way radio communications between your work site and fire authorities may be unreliable. If that’s your only choice, you’ll probably have to implement a relay system (e.g. use the 2-way radio to convey info to someone with a cell-phone, or establish radio contact with someone at the office in town). A satellite phone is a good option for most locations. Be sure to designate an individual to be the contact person so that accurate information is transmitted and received in a reliable and timely manner.
Most logging companies are well prepared to deal with emergencies and are taking proactive steps to safeguard our working forest from forest fires.
“That’s right, Lisa. Looks like another weekend camper headed home before fully extinguishing their campfire. It’s not a big blaze but with the weather and wind changing, I think it could push the fire up the draw to where our buncher is working. We can get our water tank near enough using the 3700 Road.”
“Thanks, Darren. I’ll let the crew know and contact the Fire Centre. Wanda and Rob will come over with the water truck and gear right away. I’ll get the Twin Creek crew to evacuate the buncher operator and to head over there to back us up.
Wildland Fire Lessons Center – fire training support, webinars, newsletter
BC Wildfire Service - list of recognized S-100 instructors
BC Fire Danger Rating – current fire hazard information
Wildfire Regulation – regulatory requirements under the Wildfire Act
Fire Rank – images and characteristics of fires ranked 1 through 6
Guidelines for Fire Suppression Systems and Tools in BC – suggested tools and equipment
Fire Fighting Safety Resources – link to US Forest Service fire safety resources