With a permanent marker, Kim Reay writes out her phone number on the hooves of her horses, allowing them to be free from their pen in the event of a wildfire evacuation.
Reay, who lives in Dashwood, is worried about her horses should there ever be an emergency wildfire evacuation in her area and felt that this was the best option for their safety.
“It scares the heck out of me, to be honest with you, but I’d rather have that and have them loose than caught here,” said Reay.
Her rural Dashwood home is surrounded by wildland, similar to that in the Interior, and with drying conditions getting even worse, and only one way out of her community, the possibility of little to no time to get out by riding or driving out, has become a real fear.
“It’s extremely scary. The whole Island is really dry,” said Reay.
Wildfire rating ‘extreme’ after nearly 50 days without rain
The wildfire threat is rated as extreme on Eastern Vancouver Island. That has members of the Dashwood Volunteer Fire Department, which has a crew on paid standby, out driving around neighbourhoods. The department’s “Fire Smart” coordinator is also visiting area homes encouraging residents to remove fuels of dead branches and grasses on their properties.
“What we are absolutely relying on is people to be intelligent. Don’t throw your cigarette butts out the window, don’t have campfires,” said Willow Bloomquist, Fire Smart coordinator for Dashwood Fire Department.
“We’re almost pushing 50 days without rain and our community is unique because we have a pine belt that runs through the community,” said Dashwood Fire Chief Nick Acciavatti.
Dashwood firefighters prepared for ‘any situation’
Some 1,200 homes are nestled in that pine belt and because of that, Dashwood’s bush fire crew is trained to be out the door in 90 seconds, and are more than capable of hitting a fire hard.
“Anything could spark up at any time. So we want to make sure we’re well prepared for any situation that comes up,” said Cassie Kraft, a firefighter on Dashwood Fire Department’s bushfire crew.
“We want to make sure that we’re prepared as much as possible,” adds Acciavatti.
Dashwood is one of the rare volunteer departments on the Island that pays staff to be on during extreme weather events. In a drought year like this, that means they’ve been staffed since June.
“We’ve had such good support from our community to actually staff our truck and have paid staff here at peak times,” said Acciavatti.
It’s a cost to taxpayers that Reay said she is glad to pay, knowing firefighters will be there to help fast, when it matters, for both her and her horses.