Wildfire Terms to Know for Wildfire Season

Summer has become “wildfire season” in British Columbia, and the province is already urging British Columbians to prepare for it.

As we head into fire season, there are many terms being used, such as evacuation alerts, fire bans, and fire danger rating.

In an interview with Vista Radio, Sharon Nickel, communications specialist at the Prince George Fire Center, took the time to explain some of the terms associated with the BC Wildfire Service (BCWS).

What is the difference between evacuation alerts and evacuation orders?

File photo from August 8, 2021 – Evacuation order and extended alert zone | photo courtesy RDBN

“Evacuation alerts inform people that there is a forest fire and that they must be ready to leave at any time, so that the fire at that time does not pose an imminent risk, but it has the potential to do so. Evacuation orders are put in place when the wildfire poses a risk in the very near future or poses a risk at that time. These will be on a schedule, for move people out of the at-risk perimeter, and when an order is issued, residents must evacuate immediately.

How are alerts and orders implemented and enforced?

“It is important to note that the BCWS advises on areas likely to be affected by wildfires to be considered as part of the alert or order, but local municipalities, regional districts and Indigenous and First Nations communities are responsible for implementing the evacuation. alerts and orders, as well as enforcement. Execution can also be carried out by the RCMP.

What is a Wildfire of Note?

“Wildfires of note are wildfires that may be highly visible or may pose a threat to public safety, which may include residential areas or human infrastructure, such as highways or utility poles, such as kind of stuff. Some of the fires that residents may remember from last year’s season as notable fires are the Cutoff Creek Fire or the Bucking Horse Fire which was along Highway 97, north of the Alaska Highway Corridor Fire.

What are bans and fire bans?

The BCWS uses what we call the Accumulation Index, and when that particular index reaches pre-determined points, the Wildfire Service implements the Banner Ban. So basically these are prohibited activities, complete bans on different activities. They can encompass category 2 or category 3 and campfires.

Category 3 fires:

  • Multiple fires over two meters high and three meters wide
  • Windrows or grass over an area greater than 0.2 hectares
  • When these fires are permitted, they require a registration number and are tracked through the open fire tracking system.

Category 2 fires:

  • Open fires, except campfires, which burn stacked materials no more than two meters high by three meters wide
  • Grass fires in an area not exceeding 0.2 hectares
  • Burn barrels are also prohibited where Category 2 fires are prohibited

Campfire :

  • Lights no more than 0.5 meters high by 0.5 meters wide, used for recreational purposes or by an Aboriginal or First Nations community for ceremonial purposes.

How and when are bans and prohibitions implemented, and how are they enforced?

The BCWS decides when there are bans and bans. However, in the event that the BC Wildfire Service has not implemented a campfire ban, a regional district has provided for it in its bylaws to implement a campfire ban.

The BCWS relies heavily on public reporting, so we have our smoke, wildfire, and unattended campfire reporting line. It is 1-800-663-5555, or *5555 on your mobile device. When we receive reports of smoke or fire, they are investigated. Campfire bans and prohibitions, under the Wildfire Act, which we are able to enforce, persons who violate these prohibitions may be fined up to $1,100 .

What are zone restrictions and how are they enforced?

“Area restrictions are different from evacuation alerts and orders. They may encompass part of the same area, but those particular restrictions are implemented by the BCWS.

“These are made to restrict public access to areas where there is ongoing fire suppression activity. These particular restrictions are put in place for public safety because fire may reduce avenues of entry or egress, but having these restrictions in place reduces the need for emergency evacuation for the public who may be blocked or affected by a forest fire, and so that we enforce them through the forest fire act as well.

What is the fire risk rating system and how is the fire risk rating determined?

Prince George Fire Danger Rating (Photo by mypgnow.com staff)

“The fire danger rating system looks at current and forecast weather conditions, including ground-level moisture, humidity, and precipitation, as well as available forest fuels.”

“Residents are probably very familiar with the fire danger signs they see around town and along fire corridors. It is one of the tools the Wildfire Service uses, in conjunction with reviewing fire weather indices, reviewing relative humidity, wind speed, wind direction, fine fuel moisture codes, dust moisture codes, dryness codes and accumulation index and fire weather index. This combination of tools therefore helps us in forest fire management decisions, including prevention. »

“For quick public consumption, the fire danger rating kind of speaks to what’s happening with forest fuels right now, how quickly they can burn, how volatile they are, and the current and forecast weather to see whether this would fuel or slow the spread of the fire.

Nickel added that there is more information on the BC Wildfire Service app, the BC Wildfire Service website, their Facebook and Twitter pages and the FireSmart website.

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