Ominous warning accompanies wildfire demonstration
Published Thursday, July 20, 2017 7:46AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 20, 2017 7:49AM PDT
Vancouver firefighters demonstrated just how fast a cigarette or spark can start a ferocious grass fire as a warning to the public during what's shaping up to be a dangerous July.
With the warm dry weather continuing for weeks, the fire danger rating at civic parks and halls across the region is already high, but expected to rise to extreme in the coming days.
"It was a wet spring so the grass grew very tall, now it's been warm so the grass dried out," explained Vancouver Fire Rescue Service training officer Randy Schenderling.
He lit a cigarette and laid it on dried-out grass at the VFRS training facility in east Vancouver as part of a demonstration for the media. Rather than wait up to 20 minutes a lit cigarette can take to ignite dried vegetation, Schenderling tapped a flame from a lighter against the grass touching the cigarette, which quickly ignited.
Within 40 second, a square metre of grass was scorched and the flames kept eating away at the grassy patch, fanned by a light breeze.
"It's only July and we have these [extremely dry] conditions -- normally it's in August,' said Schenderling, noting how quickly the scorched area grew despite the morning humidity.
"Almost 100% of the brush fires in Vancouver are sparked by humans and smoking materials," said VFRS spokesperson Jonathan Gormick.
While Vancouver itself has only had a dozen brush fires so far this month, other municipalities are facing their own calls for wild land or grass fires on a daily basis. Most of them are due to carelessly-discarded cigarettes.
"We're a highly densified city and the vast majority of our green spaces are adjacent to structures and it's only a matter of time before a fire started by discarded smoking material causes a catastrophic loss of property, or worse -- a loss of life," warned Gormick.
The city of Vancouver recently passed a bylaw allowing firefighters or bylaw officers to ticket smokers $500 for improperly disposing of smoking materials.
The VFRS has three "wildland units" comprised of smaller off-road capable fire trucks with specially-trained staff to respond to fires in the city's large parks, most notably Pacific Spirit, Everett Crowley and Stanley Parks.
Officials say while fighting a small grass fire on your property with a hose is an excellent first line of defense, you should call the fire department to attend and spray the area with a specialized fire-suppression foam as well since the roots can smoulder underground and flare up later.