'Operation Dry Lightning': Crews training for interface fires on North Shore
Published Thursday, May 2, 2019 8:44AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 2, 2019 1:35PM PDT
If you saw helicopters, smoke, and emergency vehicles in North Vancouver and West Vancouver Thursday morning and early afternoon, you were likely getting a glimpse of a training exercise meant to simulate an interface fire.
"Operation Dry Lightning" is a training exercise coordinated by North Shore Emergency Management.
Firefighters, police, North Shore Rescue members, Metro Vancouver staff and city officials were at Kilmer Creek Park in North Vancouver and Cypress Falls Park in West Vancouver from about 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday.
Some trails in those areas were closed as fire crews respond to a hypothetical fire scenario, which included the use of a helicopter dropping water on the simulated fire.
Smoke on the hillside in North Vancouver was created by a smoke machine to add a sense of realness.
The area chosen in North Vancouver was just a few hundred metres from homes.
It's the third time the exercise has been done, and it takes dozens of people to make it happen. One of the priorities, is practicing communication between the agencies involved.
"Communication and also familiarization with each other. It's always better to meet people before you need to respond to a real event together," said Fiona Dercole with North Shore Emergency Management. "Familiarization with each other's equipment and just how we work together."
Chief Brian Hutchinson with District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services says the exercise is important for north shore fire crews, who are already trained to fight wildfires.
"Our urban interface on the North Shore, we have large numbers of people living right close to the forest," he explained. "That is why we put a lot of time and effort into our wildfire preparation."
Hutchinson also notes drier conditions caused by climate change and the heavy recreational use of the forested areas of North Vancouver result in a heightened concern about the chance of a wildfire in an urban area.
"Our climate is changing. We are seeing longer, warmer, drier summers, therefore our fire risk is increasing," Dercole added. "We also have a lot of human activity in our trail network here. Heavily used by mountain bikers, hikers, recreationalists, so there is a higher chance of a human triggered fire here."
The exercise was previously done in 2008 and 2016.
Phase one of the exercise, which happened on Monday, involved police and bylaw officers knocking on doors in the areas near the parks, to practice evacuation notification procedures.
Residents in those areas have also received an information package with safety information and additional details on Thursday’s simulated fire scenario.