With an unseasonably dry spring in the area and now with summer approaching, Houston fire chief Jim Daigneault is urging residents take practical steps to reduce the chances of fires starting — and spreading.
“Keep areas around your house clear of material that will burn easily, move wood piles away,” says Daigneault.
“Don’t fill flower beds with bark mulch — use other materials, keep areas under decks and porches clear of debris,” he added.
Daigneault also said it’s important to keep gutters clean and make sure house vents are screened to keep any embers out.
With approximately 30 volunteers on call, the fire department has a variety of vehicles which can respond to non-structure fires.
One of those vehicles is a water tender with a 1,500 gallon capacity and a porta tank that can attend non-structure fires where hydrants aren’t available.
“We would set up the tender would fill the porta tank and then head out to refill the tender and repeat as required,” the chief said.
The District of Houston’s multi-year financial plan also calls for the replacement next year of its current rescue truck.
“It will be the same basic design with maybe a few improvements it will not change our current capabilities, but it will update some items that have improved over the years since our current truck has been put in service,” said Daigneault.
And should other assistance be required, Daigneault said the department can call on the B.C. Wildfire Service for assistance.
Similarly, the wildfire service can also call on the fire department, said Carolyn Bartos who is stationed at the service’s Northwest Fire Centre based at the Smithers airport.
This year the wildfire service is basing two additional initial attack crews in the fire centre’s region, one in Houston and one in Burns Lake, she said. That makes for three initial attack crews now in each community.
That’s an increase over the 10 initial attack crews in the Northwest Fire Centre region last year.
The three-person initial attack crews are the first responders of the wildfire service, arriving first at the scene of a fire and able to act as a self-contained team.
Houston is also home to a wildfire service attack base, from which assets can be disbursed as needed and to act as a coordination location.
Backing up the initial attack crews are four unit crews of 20 people each. There’s a unit crew in Burns Lake, the Telkwa Rangers, the Hazelton Rainmakers and the Firebirds based in Terrace.
Hazelton also has an attack base and there are forward attack bases in Atlin and Watson Lake.
“A forward attack base works primarily during the summers months as a place for crews to be dispatched from. They are located in more remote areas in the Northwest Fire Centre boundary. When crews are based out of a forward attack base it allows for quicker response times to fires,” said Bartos.
The wildfire service also has air tanker bases in Smithers and in Dease Lake which are staffed as needed.