A warm summer forecast has one expert concerned there will be more forest fires this season, and The Fur-Bearers want to make sure you know how to do your part to keep our landscape safe for ourselves, and for the animals.
The CBC reported this week that Dr. Mike Flannigan, a professor with the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta and the Director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science located at the University of Alberta, believes there will be more fires in Canada, if forecasts for a warmer season hold true.
Wild fires are a part of natural cycles, and can be the agents of change that allow for new growth or renewal in forests. But there are significant costs associated to controlling these fires, and when they are started accidentally by people, or grow too rapidly (as was the case in the infamous Fort McMurray fire of 2016) the damage can be extraordinary. Fires can destroy homes or entire communities, kill or drive wildlife into dangerous situations, and lead to an assortment of other problems. While experts and the government monitor fire activity seasonally, and are constantly training and finding new ways to control fires, there are things we can do to help stop new fires from starting – and help the animals when they do start.
- Check in with local officials to learn of any fire restrictions, rules, or permits
- Pick a site (close to a water source, sheltered from the wind, on rock or bare dirt)
- Prepare the site (clear the space of pine needles, leaves, and twigs, have water and shovel to control the fire)
- Build the fire (keep it small to help keep it controlled, and prevent damage to cooking tools)
- Put the fire out (pour water on it, stir ashes with a stick, pour more water, and repeat until ashes don’t hiss, everything looks wet, and there’s no more smoke from the ashes).
- Always check with the municipality or local officials for fire restrictions, rules, or permits before having a backyard fire
- Do not start a fire when it is windy, and be sure to have appropriate tools to control any fires you may start
- Clean up debris such as pine needles or leaves (check corners and crevices, where they tend to build up unseen)
- Have an emergency plan for your family in case a wildfire approaches
- Check out this excellent FireSmart guide from the government of BC
Helping animals during a wildfire:
- Leave bowls of water out, changed regularly, away from your home
- If you see an animal, don’t approach them (let them rest, and if they don’t move on, contact your local wildlife rehabilitator or animal control)
- Have the contact information for your local wildlife rehabilitators and animal control handy
- Get to know any animal rescues (including domestic animals) in your region, as they’ll have emergency preparedness plans you can help with
Preventing forest fires isn’t something we can always control. But how we respond to them, and making sure we don’t make them worse, certainly is.
Sources: Canadian Wildland Fire Information System; Wildfire Prevention for Home & Community (Government of BC); Natural Resources Canada, Forests; How to Build a Safe Campfire (Government of Ontario); Firesmart Homeowner's Manual (Government of BC).