The “Heat Dome” we experienced at the end of June took many by surprise, but scientists are saying more of these heat events could be in our future. After an extremely dry season, BC is burning up, and even with the cooler and damper climate of the island we are on edge at the sound of every helicopter and siren. Thankfully, our local Fanny Bay Fire Department has been quick to respond with every event we have had so far this season, and successfully contained everything from blown transformers to brush fires to blazes that could have gotten out of control very quickly.
Heatwaves, drought, fire – we have to learn how to live with these new conditions on a more regular basis, but there are many things you can do for prevention of damage and to keep you and your family safe. It also helps our amazing local volunteers to keep our community safer.
Always check up on your older neighbours. There were several hundred sudden deaths caused from extreme heat in BC over a 5 day period. Two thirds of the deaths in Vancouver were 70 and over, and most of them died alone. Check in with those around you who are elderly, remind them to keep cool and drink lots of water.
Spray yourself with cool water. As the water evaporates it cools you down. You can even soak your shirt in cold water and put it back on to bring your core temperature down quickly. Make a rice bag compress with anything – even an old sock. Put it in the freezer for a couple of hours, rice is very starchy and dense so it will stay cold for a long period of time. Hang a damp sheet in front of an open window, as the water evaporates, the air will cool.
Electronics heat up your environment so keep your computer off when not using, and skip the drying cycle on your dishwasher. Don’t use your oven, or if you do, utilize the time and prepare several meals that can be eaten as leftovers. Avoid using your dryer and hang your clothes to dry. This will also lower the electricity draw as many are already using heat pumps and air conditioners.
Skip the fatty or dense foods as your body’s metabolism works extra hard at night to digest them, increasing your body temperature. Eat light and preferably water rich foods such as watermelon, cucumber, lettuce and celery to keep hydrated – avoid alcohol.
Remember the animals! Everything from deer to rabbits to birds and bees need water so please put out dishes of water with branches and leaves or flower petals so that small insects and animals can stop in for refreshment without drowning.
We are so fortunate to be on the coast with so much water, ocean, rivers and lakes all around us. It is always a few degrees cooler by the water. Unfortunately, with the extreme fire danger, and intermittent high winds and lightening, we are all at risk and need to be aware of precautions that can be made.
For future planning, avoid planting fire prone cedar, pine, spruce and tall grass. Plant fire resistant trees and shrubs with moist, deciduous leaves such as alder, birch, maple, cottonwood and cherry.
Clean up any dry branches or leaves, rake dry grass and pine needles, cut any tall grasses, keep bushes and trees trimmed to reduce the risk of fire. Lawns that are kept under 10cm are less likely to burn intensely. Also, it is very important to remove all combustible debris including firewood from within 10 meters of any structure. Assess your roof and make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris that could easily ignite.
BC is went into a State of Emergency in mid-July for its wildfire risk, and the fire danger rating was elevated to extreme for Eastern Vancouver Island very early in the season. We need to be vigilant with fire prevention, and also prepared in the event of a fire.
Every home should have shovels, rakes, axes, sprinklers, garden hoses and ladders easily accessible.
An easily accessible home emergency kit should consist of:
High calorie ready-to-eat foods such as energy bars
Powered or hand-crank flashlight
Battery powered or hand crank radio and extra batteries
Seasonal clothing and emergency blanket
Copy of all important documents, ID, insurance papers and your emergency plan
If you have pets – water, food, leashes and carriers
First aid kit with whistle
If you wear glasses or contacts, an extra pair
Toiletries and at least two days’ worth of personal medications
Pens and notepad
Cash in small denominations
If you would like a copy of the FireSmart Guide, it can be accessed at www.firesmartbc.ca If you see any sign of a wildfire, call *5555 immediately from your cell.
Protect your family, neighbours, community and local wildlife from heat, drought and fire. Always remember that prevention and preparation can make all the difference. As Bobby Akart said “Because you never know when the day before is the day before…prepare for tomorrow”.
By Angela Hicke – Van Isle Wild
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