Effective noon on Thursday, August 1, 2013 all open fires, including campfires are banned in all areas of the Coastal Fire Centre, except for the Fog Zone on the west coast of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii. More information and a map of the area covered by the ban can be found at bcwildfire.ca. The Coastal Fire Centre does not take putting a ban in place lightly but with the Fire Danger Ratings throughout reading ‘High’ and ‘Extreme’ (July 31), and with the expectation of lightning over the next few days, it is the most sensible course of action. We have experienced wetter and cooler weather in some parts of the Coastal Fire Centre (August 2) but our forecaster is telling us that the weather will rebound quickly and the likelihood of holdover fires is high. Human-caused fires can divert resources when and from where they are most needed. While naturally occurring fires are unavoidable, human-caused fires are considered preventable. Along with a campfire ban, there is also a ban on tiki torches. The campfire ban covers all BC Parks, Crown and private lands, but does not apply within the boundaries of local governments that have forest fire prevention bylaws and are serviced by a fire department. Please check with local governments for any other restrictions before lighting a fire. The prohibition will remain in place until October 15, 2013, or until it is deemed safe to rescind the ban.
The Category 2 open fire ban which took effect on June 24, 2013 still applies. This prohibition includes burn barrels, debris burning, fireworks and sky lanterns. A ban on any industrial fires which require a burn registration number is also in effect.
This map of the Coastal Fire Centre shows some of the lightning within our boundaries in the last 24 hours. The 24 hours previous to this saw lightning strikes in every zone with the exception of the southern Vancouver Island.
So if a campfire is not allowed, what is? The prohibition does not apply to cooking stoves that use gas, propane or briquettes. It does not apply to a portable campfire apparatus with a CSA or ULC rating that uses liquid or gaseous fuel, as long as the height of the flame is less than 15 centimetres. That means you can still cook, you can keep warm and you can have a campfire albeit a gas one.
The Lizzie Creek fire that was discovered on July 15, 2013 is a good example of how as a fire expands so too, do the resources on a wildfire. It is also a lesson in how well agencies work in concert toward a common goal. Many people may be surprised that on a wildfire it is often the crews who determine what, where and when resources are required. It is a very bottom up organization. Think about it, who is on the ground? If an initial attack crew arrives at a fire and determines that the fire is beyond their capabilities they will request additional crews and/or suggest that the fire be managed by a Unit Crew, or a fire management team with more resources under them. Consultation with the fire centre confirm objectives and resources, and speed them on their way. In the case of the Lizzie Creek Fire it was determined that a Type II IMT team be called to the site. All the information from the fireline is fed back to the Incident Commander and a plan is formulated. The I/C coordinates, but it is the field that establishes the needs. On a wildfire it is the crews who are the experts, it is their observations that give an I/C the lay of the land, who then highlight any issues and request resources. The crews know what they need to complete their assignments, and they help determine what the assignment, will be the next day. This information helps the I/C to reallocate crews as necessary. Once the information goes to the I/C there are multiple layers of support. The incident commander will contact the fire centre and
pass on any details of the fire but the fire is managed from the field. The fire centre will support the fire management team by moving resources and provide specialty advice and products (like maps, fire behaviour predictions, spot weather forecasts and thermal scans). The Fire Centre can also assist with information dispersal, with media interviews and website updates. By assisting the field efforts, the fire centre lifts some of the workload, and allows the field staff to focus on the real work of putting out the fire. When the Lizzie Creek fire was in mop-up it was turned over and managed by the zone. It was turned over to the zone once the incident management team determined that the fire was manageable with the number of resources that the zone had at its disposal. The Lizzie Creek fire was declared OUT on July 28, 2013. Page 2
Last week during the coverage of the Lizzie Creek Fire we had one reporter claim that the Coastal Fire Centre was ‘confused’ about the size of the fire. The size was adjusted several times over the course of the week but the confusion lies not in the misreporting of a fire’s size, or a case of misinformation, but a lack of understanding by the reporter on how a fire size is arrived at. First, the initial size of a fire is an approximation. A crew person will get to the site of a fire and report back to dispatch that ‘the fire looks to be X number of hectares.’ Remember, when our crews get to a site, it may be smoky, the fire may be burning in multiple locations, it may be on steep terrain. All of these factors affect the size of a fire but in order to generate a report and start working and planning an approximate size is necessary. Second, once the crews get on the fire and the fire behavior is lower (less smoke), a better look at the fire is often taken from the air. Often this means GPS points are taken and a fire is truly mapped looking down onto the fire. This can mean as in the Lizzie Creek Fire, staff in a helicopter fly the fire perimeter with a GPS, looking down on the fire and attempting to identify the edges of the fire. Third, once crews can get a solid containment line around the fire, the fire perimeter can be mapped. This consists of a crew person wearing a GPS and walking the entire perimeter of the fire. This is the most accurate size but it can not be accomplished until the fire is no longer growing in size and it is deemed safe to do so.
This relay tank was above the Lizzie Creek fire. Rolling debris is often a concern in Coastal because of the steep terrain. Trees, rocks, and logs can dislodge and roll downhill onto crews.
One of the highest risks to crews on the Lizzie Creek Fire was the risk of heat exhaustion and/or dehydration. The fire was on an extremely steep slope, temperatures were registering in the mid-thirties on some days, in addition to the heat of the fire, the physical work itself is strenuous and draining and the fire was located on a west facing slope. Dealing with heat stress is never easy and crews are constantly reminded to monitor themselves and one another while working, particularly during the hottest part of the day. A few ways crews manage there work is to rotate from ground work to managing pumps, when possible working in shaded areas, and hydrating frequently. In fact, crews are so used to working outdoors in thirty degree temperatures that you will rarely find a Wildfire Management Branch vehicle that does not carry several cases of water at all times.
The Wildfire Management Branch is an organization that is as mobile as it is flexible. Knowing how many, and what kind of resources are necessary is the result of experience and consultation. For example, on the Lizzie Creek Fire, the original responders was an initial attack crew, when it was determined that more resources were required, two unit crews were moved onto the fire. After airtankers worked the fire, an additional unit crew was assigned to the fire to take advantage of the lower fire behaviour. Another good example of the mobility of our crews is June 7, 2013 when the Thunderbirds, stationed in Port Alberni, spent part of their day at a house fire in case the fire spread to a forested area behind the house and the second half of their day travelling both by helicopter and truck to Nelson Island to work on a second fire there. Today the Coastal Fire Centre is experiencing very dry conditions with lightning in the forecast. How resources are positioned is based on weather forecasts, previous history and experience. The zones know the geography of an area, the problem areas for humancaused fires and the type of vegetation in the area should a fire start. All of these details help the Fire Centre position crews, aircraft, vehicles and heavy equipment as well as single resources (those employees with specialties). Crews are currently being told to ‘pack a bag, wherever you are, may not be where you end up’ as each lightning strike is being attacked aggressively and then crews are moving on to the next fire. Jumping on these fires allow the crews to deal with a lightning strike before it goes underground and before it has a chance to grow in size.
From July 31, 2013 to August 1, 2013 sixteen new fires were reported to the Coastal Fire Centre. These fires were all, with the exception of one, the result of lightning. Weather technicians from the WMB have forecast that this is only one day in a series of days ahead where lightning will strike within our boundaries. The Coastal Fire Centre has instituted a campfire ban throughout, with the exception of the Fog Zone (see front page) and Haida Gwaii. We are asking for the publicâ€™s cooperation in adhering to the prohibition. Although the weather is currently cool and wet in some locations, we have experienced numerous fire starts and are expecting more. As the weather warms next week more fires will become visible, holdover fires will spring up and our crews will be kept busy. The Coastal Fire Centre thanks everyone for their support and cooperation as we move fullswing into the 2013 fire season.
Pitt River Fire (V10310) - 7.5 km northeast of the north end of Pitt Lake. Discovered: July 28, Cause: Lightning, Status: Expanded Attack. Resources: Type II IMT Team, 50 crewpersons, 4 helis. This fire is in a remote location, there are no road or area closures. This is not an interface fire. There may be some smoke in the area; although some smoke may be due to large fires in Washington State. On July 31, 2013 the Coastal Fire Centre had 30 active fires, for a total of 102 fires for the season. We have, however, added to that total and number 119 fires as of August 2, 2013. We have two Modified Response fires. One at Orford River and one at Owikeno River. These fires are being allowed to burn to predetermined trigger points and then reassessed. This plan is carried out in consultation with the land managers.
SYNOPSIS: Moisture rotating around a weakening upper low over Washington State maintains cool and mainly cloudy conditions with isolated or scattered showers for most southern locations today while areas north of the main bands of moisture (north of roughly Comox on the Island and Bute Inlet on the Mainland) currently see a few sunny breaks that likely broaden through the afternoon. As the airmass destabilizes with daytime heating this afternoon, localized heavy showers are expected over the mainland with the potential for embedded thundershowers, favouring eastern sections of all Mainland zones. Showers of a more isolated nature are expected over the Island, with the odd local downpour possible in some spots as well. A narrow upper ridge approaching from the northwest brings partial clearing and warmer and drier conditions a little further down the coast on Saturday while the slow-to-exit trough across the south maintains generally cool and cloudy conditions over much of the Fraser and Pemberton zones as well as parts of the South Island zone. Warm, sunny, and dry weather continues over Haida Gwaii each day. OUTLOOK: The leading edge of a weakening Pacific frontal system brings increasing cloud and a chance of showers (60% chance) to Haida Gwaii on Sunday, while all but the southeastern sections of the Fraser zone trend sunnier and warmer under the influence of a narrow ridge of high pressure. Expect a mix of sun and cloud, near or above seasonal temperatures (mid to upper twenties), and isolated showers Monday and Tuesday as the prevailing onshore flow trends somewhat drier while the Fire Centre remains positioned between systems. 6 TO 10 DAY: Latest trends show an approaching frontal system by the middle of next week, but it is still unclear whether widespread showers are to be expected, or if the tail end of the feature will brush through bringing wind but little rain. Regardless, Haida Gwaii and the Mid Coast are most likely to see showers from this next feature with a progressively lower chance of showers to the south. A prevailing onshore flow is expected through the six to ten day period, preventing humidities from dipping to extreme values while the small upper low off the coast of California that was previously mentioned as bringing in a risk of lightning by the end of the week appears to be retreating southward somewhat.