As the fires in Fort McMurray die down, the scope and damage done can finally be measured, and it is looking worse than they originally thought.
According to the local press, the fire covered over 520,000 hectares. That’s as if 1,260 of Campbell River’s Beaver Lodge Forest lands burned down.
The local fire department has never had to battle a wildfire of that size in the area. Ian Baikie, fire chief, said that the coast usually sees less wildfires than interior B.C. as well as Alberta. But Campbell River has more forest surrounding it than many other places.
“We certainly have the beautiful Beaver Lodge lands at the centre of our community and we work with the Greenways Trust…and the forestry to make sure that both access to the area is maintained and we can do all we can to mitigate any small fires that occur in there quickly,” Baikie said.
In 2013 the city commissioned a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. A part of the plan was to conduct a wildfire risk assessment.
The research team found that McIvor Lake and Gordon Road had the highest fire risk in the jurisdiction.
Since then the fire department has been mailing out Fire Smart information to people living in the area on how to protect their homes and decrease risk of fire on their property. They have also gone door to door to do education programs.
“We tailor our response plans to provide appropriate and rapid interventions in those areas,” Baikie said.
One of the problems is that there are no fire hydrants in the McIvor Lake area, however plans are in place to provide appropriate amounts of water to the area if necessary.
As for the surrounding forests, the fire department is working with Timberwest and Greenways Land Trust to ensure they have good access to the areas. Some of the bridges in the forestry lands have recently been upgraded to ensure that the fire department can respond quickly.
Baikie also said that Campbell River is prepared for large scale evacuations.
“We’ve got a fairly strong, robust emergency social services system here to help with evacuation and registration and group lodging situations,” he said.