Steve Vatcher, FireSmart co-ordinator for the Lake Cowichan fire department, talks to homeowners at an open house at the Fire Hall on May 4. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette)

VIDEO: Wildfire season is time to get FireSmart: Lake Cowichan fire department

There’s even cash available to help homeowners or neighbourhoods with fire safety projects

Lake Cowichan Fire Department is again asking town residents to look around their properties and take note of possible ways they can stop a wild fire spreading.

Steve Vatcher, co-ordinator of the department’s FireSmart program, spoke to interested homeowners during a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on Saturday, May 4 at the fire hall.

He talked about and showed on a screen photos of examples of ways that the problem of living in a so-called “urban interface” territory should be at the top of every homeowner’s list.

There is even some cash available for homeowners who, after a FireSmart assessment, come up with projects to help improve fire safety around their properties, he said.

Vatcher’s own experiences, fighting forest fires in the B.C. Interior in recent summers, have shown him that the flying embers from a big fire don’t spread if they land near a FireSmart home but can cause devastation if no effort has been made to pay attention to some simple suggestions to clear away problems near a house.

He showed pictures from a fire near Loon Lake, telling the homeowners that the fire had actually crossed the lake and could possibly blow across narrow sections near the Town of Lake Cowichan, too. Interestingly, he was also able show that some houses escaped the fire completely while others nearby were consumed.

There have been three wildfires in Cowichan in just the last month, with one at Lake Cowichan. In B.C., there were 1.34 million hectares of land burned by 2,068 wildfires in 2018, even more than the 1.22 million hectares of land burned by 1,347 wildfires in 2017, which had been a record year. During 2018, there were 66 evacuation orders, and 124 evacuation alerts, with a total of 17,939 properties on alert.

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