WATCH: Devastating fires like B.C. Interior is seeing unlikely to happen on Vancouver Island but there are other big fire risks here. Tess van Straaten reports.
It turns out all the tall trees on Vancouver Island, like soaring coastal Douglas firs, actually help reduce the risk of the most ravaging forest fires ? fast-moving crown fires that plague the B.C. Interior.
“Crown fires are the most devastating fires we see in television footage with walls of flame running through the tree tops and we just don’t get that much of that here on the Island,” says forest fire scientist Dan Peracis of the Pacific Forestry Centre in Saanich.
That’s because it takes a lot of energy to bring the fire up to the crown.
Fires running along the ground are usually slower moving and even though conditions are tinder-dry on much of Vancouver Island, there’s a lot less open grassland and sagebrush, which fuel fast-burning ground fires.
“We’re lucky on the west coast because we won’t get fires with the speed and the intensity the Interior does,” says Acting Chief Rob Marshall of the View Royal Fire Department. “It’s a lot more flat in the Interior and you have different types of bushes and trees and they get the wind there and they’ll get multiple lightening starts.”
Only three of the 53 fires so far this year in the Coastal Fire Centre have been from lightening ? the rest were human-caused.
But with so many people living in or near wooded areas on Vancouver Island, one of the greatest risks is interface fires, which means even small fires can threaten homes and even lives.
The other big hazard on the Island is a slash fire.
The extremely dry and highly flammable debris left behind from logging can fuel fires that burn hot and spread quickly, easily escaping initial attacks.
“It’s not uncommon at all for escaped campfires or other fires to get going in these slash areas and they’re quite a problem to put out,” Peracis says. “They’re high intensity and they have high spread rates.”
Normal fire fighting methods like water bombing don’t always work in a slash fire and putting crews on the ground is very dangerous.
For both slash fires and interface fires, if winds pick up the situation can very quickly become dire and that has officials urging caution.