Saanich fire Capt. Carl Trepels is reminding residents to be cautious as the forest fire risk in Greater Victoria has been upgraded to ‘extreme’ – as indicated on the sign outside Fire Hall #1. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Greater Victoria forest fire risk upgraded to ‘extreme’

Residents reminded to be cautious with smoking material, avoid all outdoor burning

As Greater Victoria battles an ongoing heatwave, Saanich firefighters are reminding residents to be fire smart after the region’s forest fire risk rating was upgraded to ‘extreme.’

On Sept. 9, the Saanich Fire Department took to social media to share a photo of the forest fire rating sign on Vernon Avenue outside Fire Hall 1 which now shows that the risk rating has been deemed to be extreme.

“The beautiful sunshine is great, but please be careful with all smoking materials and remember there is no outside burning at all,” the post read.

READ ALSO: Summer heat to continue this week across Vancouver Island

Greater Victoria residents woke up to weather and air quality warnings on Tuesday morning as Environment Canada issued alerts about the high temperatures forecasted for the week and smokey skies from wildfires in Washington.

Saanich fire Capt. Carl Trepels said that this week the Coastal Fire Centre – part of the BC Wildfire Service – determined that the forest fire risk for most of the South Island is now ‘extreme.’ After three consecutive days of that rating, altered protocols are implemented for firefighters responding to calls and extra equipment is automatically sent to any wildland fires as they’re more likely to spread when it’s hot and dry.

READ ALSO: Chuck that cigarette butt, and face a fine

The increased response requires more resources so the community “needs to be really diligent” about not starting fires, Trepels explained.

He added that a complete burning ban has been in effect for some time now, but firefighters across the Island are reminding residents to be on alert. Smokers are reminded to extinguish their burning materials with water, drivers are asked to avoid parking on dry grass and anyone who spots smoke or fire is asked to call 911 immediately.

READ ALSO: Rural Saanich residents urged to take preventative steps ahead of wildfire season

He added that burning items like cigarette butts dropped in dry grass or mulch can smoulder for several hours if not doused in water and can spark fires long after being discarded – which is why tossing a burning butt from a car window, for example, can lead to hefty fines.

According to Saanich police Const. Markus Anastasiades, someone caught doing so may be issued either an $81 fine under the Motor Vehicle Act for littering or a $575 fine in accordance with the B.C. Wildfire Act for the mishandling of a burning substance near a forested or grassy area.

For fire prevention tips and advice for protecting homes and other structures, check out the FireSmart Home Owners Manual – available for free on the Government of B.C. website – or contact the Saanich Fire Department at fireprevention@saanich.ca or 250-475-5500.

READ ALSO: Victoria airport sees driest Sept. 8 in 67 years


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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