COQUITLAM, BC, July 13, 2021 – As wildfires blaze around the province, Coquitlam continues to train and build its response capabilities as part of its efforts to prepare for possible wildfire impacts here at home.
Prolonged stretches of hot, dry weather bring increased risk of fires to Coquitlam’s wildland interface zone – neighbourhoods and other developed areas located alongside forests and natural areas. While the risk is greatest in the summer, Coquitlam Fire/Rescue (CFR) works year-round on wildland interface fire prevention and response, including seeking out grant funds for planning, education and training.
Partnerships Crucial in Fighting Wildfires
Partnerships with other emergency responders are critical when fighting wildfires, which don’t respect municipal boundaries. To develop these crucial relationships, CFR hosted multi-agency exercises on May 11 and 13 that simulated an interface fire on Eagle Ridge Mountain. A video of the exercise can be found at https://youtu.be/r6Yo28Qup-8.
Funded by a $25,000 provincial grant administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the exercise provided CFR with the opportunity to train, hone protocols and share ideas with other Tri-City, regional and provincial fire and emergency responders that could be called out to a large interface fire in Coquitlam.
Coquitlam is also partnering with Port Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra after receiving a joint $496,900 grant from B.C.’s FireSmart Economic Recovery Fund to enhance regional wildfire preparedness. The grant, which will create six new jobs this summer, will be used to conduct property assessments and reduce fire risk on interface properties, educate those who live in and visit interface areas, and upgrade infrastructure that is critical to regional wildfire response.
Building In-house Preparedness
Additional interface fire training and planning in Coquitlam will be funded through another recent $50,000 provincial grant, this one through the FireSmart Community Funding and Supports category.
These activities will build on CFR’s other wildland interface preparedness work and resources, including:
- A Wildfire Protection Plan and Mundy Park Forest Management Plan;
- Three Structure Protection Unit trailers;
- Wildfire interface training for all CFR personnel, along with a team of trained wildfire interface specialists who are often deployed to support provincial wildfire response; and
- Steps to mitigate wildland urban interface fires including a wildfire buffer in northwest Coquitlam, a summer water restriction relaxation program, park patrols by CFR and bylaw enforcement officers, and regulations in high-risk areas imposed through an Interface Wildfire Risk Management Development Permit Area.
Information for Property Owners
Human activity, such as campfires and discarded smoking materials, continues to be the leading cause of wildfires. People who live near Coquitlam’s wooded areas are urged to prepare their homes:
- Keep combustible materials at least 1.5 metres from the home, and piles of firewood at least 10 metres away;
- Keep your home’s roof and gutters free of leaves and pine needles, and prune all branches that hang over the roof;
- Choose fire-safe vegetation and space it to prevent a continuous line of vegetation leading to the home;
- Remove all dead/dry vegetation and trim tree limbs two to three meters from the ground;
- Choose non-combustible roofing, building and landscape materials;
- Know where your home’s gas, electric and water shut-offs are; and
- Have a wildfire escape plan in place.
More information can be found at www.coquitlam.ca/interfacefire.
Clean Air Spaces Provided in Coquitlam
In consideration of the possible effects of wildfire smoke from other areas of the province and the U.S., Coquitlam has upgraded a number of civic facilities to provide community Clean Air Spaces where residents, particularly those with breathing issues, can spend time when air quality is poor.
The City used funding from Canada Community-Building Fund (formerly Gas Tax Fund) – a cost-sharing infrastructure program administered in B.C. by the Union of B.C. Municipalities– to make upgrades such as adding charcoal filters, updating mechanical systems to avoid pulling in exterior air, and installing air curtains to seal entrances.
When air quality is poor, the City will activate the Clean Air Spaces and post locations and hours at www.coquitlam.ca/cleanairspace. Residents may also sign up for notifications through the CoquitlamConnect mobile app or NotifyMe news alerts (see www.coquitlam.ca/connect) or follow the City on social media.
About the Canada Community-Building Fund
The Canada Community-Building Fund (formerly the Gas Tax Fund) is in its 16th year of delivering funding to local government infrastructure and capacity-building projects in British Columbia. In that time, the fund has transferred over $2.5 billion to B.C.’s communities. The fund provides municipalities across the country with a permanent, stable and indexed source of infrastructure funding. For more information, visit www.infrastructure.gc.ca/gtf.
Deputy Fire Chief
City of Coquitlam