For Coastal firefighters, learning how to prevent fires is as important as learning how to fight them. Local firefighters who are certified as local FireSmart representatives took part in two full days of class training and another two days of house assessments last month as part of their continuous FireSmart training.
And, coming to the Coast in the New Year will be the Home Partners Program, a newer, more critical assessment of structural vulnerabilities to wildfire, under the umbrella of the FireSmart program.
David Mcllwraith, FireSmart coordinator for the Sunshine Coast, explained that this practical method of assessment teaches firefighters to look at the microscopic details of the house.
All of the fire personnel in attendance had wildfire deployment experience, some of them had multiple deployments last summer. “These deployments allow us to go out and learn some of these skill sets and learn from some of these communities that are experiencing these [fires]. And we bring that skill set back to the Coast,” he said.
FireSmart training is about mitigating the effect of wildfire but it is also about mitigating the effects of a structure fire on its surroundings.
Mcllwraith explained that doing these assessments multiple times with different types of homes helps firefighters create a muscle memory of what to look for when they arrive at a scene.
“We were trying to create a variation of building structures to do assessments on so that ultimately, we’d be that much more comfortable, or familiar with doing assessments on any type of structure.”
Mcllwraith said his biggest takeaway from the session was the discussion over the continuation of fuel. Whether it’s a vertical or a horizontal connection, putting small interruptions in those planes will go a long way to mitigating the impact of the fire and limiting its intensity.
“A ladder fuel could be debris on the forest floor or on the lawn that ignites some lower branches, which in turn, ignites some upper branches, which goes from treetop to treetop,” he said.
Mcllwraith clarified that a standard home assessment will give a homeowner a list of recommendations that would help mitigate a wildfire. Alternatively, if they wish to pursue FireSmart certification, they will be given a list of things that must be completed before the home can be certified as FireSmart.
Jordan Copp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Coast Reporter