From residents to B.C. Wildfire, B.C. continues to innovate on fire fighting, detection | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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From residents to B.C. Wildfire, B.C. continues to innovate on fire fighting, detection

August 09, 2021 - 7:00 AM

New technologies and solutions are often proposed and developed in B.C. when wildfire season approaches, and 2021 is no different.

Wildfire detection has evolved in B.C., especially since the 2017 fire season, but around 40% of wildfires in the province continue to be reported by the public. This can include anyone from rural residents, to roadtrippers and even airline pilots.

For rural communities, one GoFundMe was started with an idea to help local residents catch wildfires even sooner in the White Lake area, north of Salmon Arm.

The fundraiser was started to install webcams that will take photos of surrounding hills intermittently every 30 to 60 seconds, according to the GoFundMe page.

There are two webcams ordered and on the way to be installed already with the purpose of allowing the public to detect local wildfires earlier, along with the added benefit of watching for changing weather conditions.

Similarly, an amateur radio club based in Kamloops also has webcams on local mountains like Mount Lolo and Greenstone Mountain. While the webcams are useful to watch for potential wildfires, they are mounted on radio repeater towers, which could be essential in an emergency situation.

Myles Bruns is the president of the Kamloops Amateur Radio Club and he has been in discussions with the Thompson Nicola Regional District to expand their repeater infrastructure to use as a back up during emergency scenarios.

"Say a fire is burning between Kamloops and Logan Lake and it severs the (internet) fibre connection and there's no internet in Logan Lake. They could fire up our back-up system to communicate with Emergency Management B.C.," Bruns said to

While there isn't enough repeater towers in the region to practically use the radio systems as back-up internet connections, he said more infrastructure could help in a worst-case scenario.

Bruns is hoping to return to the regional district to discuss radio signals as back-up internet connections for rural communities, as long as there is a receiver within the community to connect to the radio waves.

For last resort efforts, a resident in Kamloops took it upon himself to install sprinklers on his roof. With a brass sprinkler head, garden hose and PVC piping, Curt Steeves installed the sprinklers after a wildfire threatened the Juniper neighbourhood in Kamloops on Canada Day.

Logan Lake has implemented rooftop sprinklers since 2013.

However, while it can be tempting to simply throw a sprinkler on the roof before fleeing a wildfire, it can come at a cost. Central Okanagan West regional director Wayne Carson said the practice drained a reservoir in Fintry when the area was evacuated in 1998.

“The best bet is to leave and let the professionals take care of your house,” Wayne Carson told “They’re trained to do this. They have tons of equipment there and have a really good shot at getting you back in your home. Let them do it.”

Private companies have also gotten in on the game. A Fort St. John company has developed a system of massive stationary water cannons it's trying to lease to municipalities, promising to 'make it rain' where it's needed most.  

B.C. Wildfire Service cannot be everywhere, but aside from relying on eyes in the public, they have invested in new technologies to both predict and forecast wildfires.

Since the Abbott and Chapman report in 2018, which studied the 2017 wildfire season and made recommendations to improve provincial responses, the wildfire service has created the Predictive Services Unit and the Research and Innovation Division.

Predictive services, as its name suggests, forecasts the fire season and conditions across the province, with weather and ground measurements. While fire behaviour specialists will be based at major fires to determine where a specific fire may progress.

The ongoing White Rock Lake and Tremont Creek wildfires were forecasted to grow on Aug. 5 due to wind and drought conditions, leading the wildfire service to recommend evacuation orders and alerts well beyond the fire perimeters.

The Research and Innovation Division is aimed at developing and acquiring technology that can help better forecast fire conditions and detect new starts in B.C.

The wildfire service will conduct its own aerial patrols to seek new fire starts, but both detecting and projecting wildfires can also involve meteorologists, climatologists and fire behaviour specialists to monitor both weather, humidity and moisture in the soil. This can help determine the fire danger rating in a region and forecast the movement of an ongoing wildfire.

As far as battling wildfires, it's common for the wildfire service to hire private equipment operators and helicopter pilots to help during their efforts.

"We have solicited or contracted every helicopter in B.C., and we are always juggling and keeping an eye out to find additional resources... Our biggest challenge this year is the fire season hit all across Canada and North America all at the same time," Rob Schweitzer, Director of Fire Centre Operations for the B.C. Wildfire Service said at an Aug. 4 press conference.

"Technology changes so quickly that it's hard to say that we always have the greatest, newest and best, but I firmly believe we've increased in that capacity quite a bit and we will continue to do so," Schweitzer said.

As the 2021 wildfire season blazes ahead, the B.C. Wildfire Service has recorded 143 new fire starts this week, as of Aug. 6. An estimated 583,246 hectares have burned in the province so far, with 290,273 hectares in the Kamloops Fire Centre.

— With notes from Rob Munro and Shannon Ainslie

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2021

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