We are once again up and running, literally, into a new fire season. Crews are busy training, and being certified in a variety of specialties required for their jobs. From the basic S-200 fireline course to chainsaw training, danger tree assessment, and hover exit certification, crews are maintaining their fitness and pushing hard to prepare for the 2014 season. If you drive by the Coastal Fire Centre’s various bases this time of year, you may see crews out working on the property or running down the roads. They may be in the local gym or they may be out in your community working on a variety of fuels management projects. So while our crews are getting ready, how are you doing? Have you thought about FireSmarting your property while out doing your yard work? Have you moved your pile of dry firewood away from your house? Have you checked with your local government to see if you can burn that yard waste? If yes, do you know the dates when it’s allowed? Check with whatever local government
you pay your taxes to for information on debris burning, but remember don’t do it on windy days! One small thing you can help the Wildfire Management Branch with is to—spread the word! Over the winter there was a survey taken, and to our surprise, many people did not know the Wildfire Reporting Number (1-800-663-5555 or *5555 on your cell phone). We would like to ask all of you to please spread the word. Post it on your Facebook, tell a friend or we have included an information card template (business card size) and hope those of you who can, will print some off and hand them out. We would like to welcome any of our new readers, and let you know that if you have any questions, just e-mail us and we will do our best to answer. The best place for the most current information is www.bcwildfire.ca, which is updated regularly during active fire periods. Have a safe summer!
Fire is not a thing but an event, either natural or manmade, that requires a response when life or property is at risk.
Every year, through the Wildfire News, the Coastal Fire Centre tries to weave a series of articles through the newsletter to give the reader a better idea of how the Wildfire Management Branch operates. This season we will be discussing the Incident Command System and its component parts. The Incident Command System (ICS) is a standardized on-site management system designed to enable effective, efficient incident management by integrating a combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure. ICS is used for the safety of responders, ‘to maximize the use of resources including personnel and to achieve response objectives quickly to attain the desired outcome’. It was developed in the 1970s following a series of fires in California that caused many deaths and left millions of dollars of property damage in its wake. It quickly became apparent that the system works, and was adopted in the 1990s by the BC government, followed soon after by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. It is now the standard across Canada.
Despite the wet weather the Coastal Fire Centre continues to see person-caused fires. Wildfire Management Branch considers all person-caused fires to be preventable and so we ask the public to be aware when they light any debris fires that they are responsible for the fire. On April 15, 2014, the Coastal Fire Centre was called to assist with a grass fire on the Lilwat Nation (Mount Currie Band) Reserve Land. The final mapped size of the fire was 94.5 hectares. The fire appears to be human-caused the result of an escaped Category 2 Open Fire.
The command structure in ICS simply states that every incident requires a number of core functions and those functions must communicate clearly and effectively. So a number of positions are identified as essential regardless of the size of the incident (fire). The most basic command structure used in the ICS system utilizes the Incident Commander with four subordinate functions: Operations, Logistics, Plans and Finance. If there are only three people, however, the functions will be assigned or the I/C will fill more than one box. On small fires, the I/C could be responsible for all positions and simply assign work. When multiple agencies use the same standardized system it makes integration and/or interagency cooperation more efficient and more effective. As more agencies attend, they step into a box and are responsible for the tasks involved. With everyone speaking the same language, and having an understanding of their function, operations become more fluid and attain better results. Over the next few weeks we will discuss the various positions within ICS and their functions.
SYNOPSIS: A major change now taking place will bring rain for the weekend. Fifteen hundred kilometres offshore a stationary low is starting to drift east and the bands of clouds around the low are expanding and growing more active. Along that line, a new band of heavy clouds has formed overnight just along Vancouver Island’s west coast. The thickening clouds will mean lower temperatures today but showers should hold off until evening. Saturday starts with widespread showers or steady rain for all zones and in fact its already raining over Haida Gwaii. Forecast models show moderately heavy rainfall intensifying all along the outer mainland coast overnight and then easing somewhat during the day. A second band of showers reaches western Vancouver Island late tomorrow afternoon. This is not as wet a pattern as was recently forecast but its still likely most stations see at least 5mm of rain and in some cases, especially east of Johnstone Strait rainfalls could be well over 20mm. OUTLOOK: Heaviest showers by Sunday will be over southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Monday, even though a new ridge starts to build most areas continue to see at least a few showers. Ridging brings drier but cool weather for Tuesday. 6 TO 10 DAY: Further showers reach the coast late next week as another trough crosses but is followed by drier weather by late in the weekend with the next ridge.
Subsurface or ground fires burn on or beneath the forest floor. Fuels consist of duff (topsoil, partially decayed leaves, peat and tree needles) and decayed woody material at a depth that may vary from 8-10 cm (3-4") in dry areas to 1 m (3') in wet areas. Because these types of combustible material (ground fuels) are compact, have limited oxygen supply and are protected from wind, a persistent slow burning fire is produced and both fire suppression and mop-up become difficult.
The anatomical parts of a forest fire are: Pocket(s) or Bay(s) — A marked indentation in the fire perimeter, usually located between two fingers. Finger(s) — An elongated burned area(s) projecting from the main body of the fire resulting in an irregular fire perimeter. Flanks — Those portions of the fire perimeter that are between the head and the back of the fire which are roughly parallel to the main direction of spread. Head — That portion of the fire perimeter having the greatest rate of spread and frontal fire intensity which is generally on the downwind and/or upslope part of the fire. Back, Base or Heel — That portion of the fire perimeter opposite the head; the slowest spreading part of the fire. Island(s) — Area(s) of unburned fuels located within the fire perimeter. Point of Origin — The location within the fire perimeter where ignition first occurred. Large fires may exhibit multiple fire types, in different locations, at any given time.
Initial Attack: The action taken to halt the spread or potential spread of a wildfire by the first firefighting force to arrive at the wildfire. Expanded Attack: Expanded Attack, or Sustained Action, refers to those fires which require more time, and more resources to extinguish. They are generally larger fires, which may dig-in and require more ground work to put out. Modified Response: A fire that has been deemed beneficial to land management objectives, and suitable for fire responders to modify the goal of immediately extinguishing the fire. Trigger points are flagged and a fire may be allowed to burn to a certain point before any action would be taken. Sometimes a series of trigger points are set and different action taken at each stage. The area is carefully monitored and resources allocated as necessary, and as directed by a fire management plan.
Surface fires burn on and above the forest floor, but not in the crowns of trees. Fuels include ground debris, grasses, vegetation, windfalls, brush, slash, young trees and lower branches of standing timber. Forest growth up to 7.5 m (25') may be affected. The spread rate of fires depends on the density of these fuels, continuity and size of trees and underbrush, the slope of the terrain and the weather. With surface fires, fire suppression usually includes burning off fuels in front of the fire. Mop-up may vary from easy to difficult depending on the terrain and fuel types. Crown Fires burn in the upper foliage and the crowns of standing timber in conjunction with surface fires. In some cases, a running crown fire may develop. This is a fire that travels through the tops of the trees ahead of the surface fire, and generally travels as fast as the wind pushing it. Intermittent crown fires burn up towards the tops of trees as a result of intense heat from the burning material below. This “candling” effect occurs in light timber stands where the canopy is not continuous; and in open stands where the trunks of trees are covered with dead limbs, mosses or lichens that provide a ladder for the fire to climb. Candling will also occur in isolation where only the crown of one tree will burn. “Spotting,” where embers are thrown ahead of the fire can also cause intermittent crown fires.
Mop-Up: Mop-Up is the actions required to take a fire from control to having a secure perimeter or extinguishment. It begins after the fire has been brought under control, and before suppression work is reduced to patrol. Mop-up may involve cold-trailing (feeling with one’s hands for remaining hotspots) and extinguishing all smoldering materials with water or soil. On a large fire this could be a 30-100 foot strip around the fire, where the middle is allowed to burn out—often due to safety concerns. Patrol: Patrol involves watching for fire spotting outside the fire line while the fire is still active. After mop-up is complete, patrollers watch for any smoke or fire that may rekindle after mop-up is completely. A fire in patrol status is a fire that has been extinguished but is being monitored. Out: A fire is declared Out when it has been determined to be completely extinguished.
Unit Crews are crews of 20 fire fighters, including a crew leader and three squad bosses, with skills for fighting larger fires, but able (on the coast) to be re-configured into small crews capable of initial attack (usually by ground).
The crew leader is a Type 3 Incident Commander (or working towards this certification) and members of the crew may be fallers or have other certifications to assist fire response.
These crews are equipped to construct fireguards by hand, remove fuel from the path of a fire, and use heavy equipment to secure the fire’s perimeter. These crews often go to fires after an initial attack crew or during ‘expanded attack’.
Unit crews work in difficult terrain with hot, dusty and smoky conditions, for up to 14 consecutive days. They are selfsufficient for 72 hours and can live in remote, temporary fire camps.
There are 5 unit crews in the Coastal Fire Centre. Initial Attack Crews are three-person crews that respond to the initial fire call and are usually the first on the scene at a new fire. These well-trained, physically fit and highly mobile crews may be moved rapidly throughout the province to new fires. The I/A crew must be able to be deployed by helicopter if needed, and as this is a requirement of the job, must be under 90 kilograms (200 pounds) in weight. Initial Attack crews are also known as Helitack crews, as they can be dispatched by helicopter or vehicle, depending on access to the fire. These crews are self-sufficient for up to 24 hours. There are two specialty IA crews: Rapattack crews and Parattack crews. These types of crews can also be dispatched by vehicle when the need arises.
Rapattack crews primarily fight fires caused by lightning. These crews specialize in rappelling from helicopters into steep, remote terrain and are self-sufficient for up to 48 hours. The main Rapattack base is located in Salmon Arm, with a secondary base in McBride.
Parattack crews respond to fires by parachuting from a fixed wing aircraft in extremely remote locations.
There are 19 Initial Attack Crews in the Coastal Fire Centre.
Website: www.bcwildfire.ca Facebook: BCForestFireInfo Twitter: @BCGovFireInfo Another great site to check out is the Nova Scotia Government’s Forest Protection Site (Take the Basic Fire Suppression Quiz) http://novascotia.ca/natr/forestprotection/wildfire/bffsc/
Containment: The completion of a control line around a fire and any associated spot fires which can reasonably be expected to stop the fire’s spread. Control Line: A comprehensive term for all constructed or natural fire barriers and treated fire perimeters used to control a fire. Creeping: A fire spreading slowly over the ground, generally with a low flame. Crowning: A fire ascending into the tops (crowns) of trees and spreading from crown to crown. Fire Guard: A strategically planned barrier, either manually or mechanically constructed, to stop or retard the spread of a fire, and from which suppression action is carried out to control a fire. Fire Management Plan: A document containing the essential elements of actions necessary to save human life and property, and minimize fire damage. Running: A fire rapidly spreading and with a well-defined head. Smouldering: A fire burning without flame and barely spreading. Spotting: A fire producing firebrands carried by the surface wind, a fire whirl, and/or convection column that fall beyond the main fire area. Torching or Candling: A single tree or a small clump of trees that ignites and flares up, usually from bottom to top.
Rank 1 Smouldering Ground or Creeping Surface Fire
Rank 4 Highly Vigourous Surface Fire
Rank 2 Low Vigour Surface Fire
Rank 5 Extremely Vigourous or Active Crown Fire
Rank 3 Moderately Vigourous Surface Fire
Rank 6 Blow-up or Conflagration Extreme Fire Behaviour
To Report a Wildfire: 1-800-663-5555 or cell *5555 To Contact Coastal Fire Info: INFOCO HPR P FLNR:EX For Media and Local Government Line (Office Hours during Non-Fire Season 8am to 4 pm): 250-951-4209 Page 4