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Whistler prepares for wildfires with plan believed to be a first in B.C.

Whistler prepares for wildfires with plan believed to be a first in B.C.
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The community of Whistler is amping up its wildfire preparedness to preserve and protect the resort municipality if a fire threatens homes and lives.


A new report, presented by Behr Integrated Solutions, provides the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) with an implementation strategy to address recommendations made in the Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan in 2022 when it comes to policy, emergency planning and training.

“As you know, Whistler is a resort community,” Thomas Doherty, the Whistler fire chief told Global News. “A lot of mountains, lakes and streams through here. One of the interesting challenges that we have here is, to our community, it’s very much made up of an intermix.”


Doherty explained that in Whistler, rather than interface, where a neighbourhood borders the forest, the community has a high percentage of intermix, where homes are within the forest.

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“So that creates quite a unique challenge for us, particularly, through the area,” he added.

In addition, there is one highway in and out of the community, which creates additional challenges.

Doherty said they wanted the community to be better prepared for a wildfire.

“So typically when a wildfire is approaching a community, these defence plans are done at that time as it’s approaching,” he said. “So obviously wildfire specialists will come in and assist with doing these neighbourhood defence plans. So we’ve done that in advance. We believe we’re one of the first municipalities to do this type of plan, to have this information readily available ahead of time.”

Click to play video: 'Whistler installs new fire detection cameras'

Whistler installs new fire detection cameras

Doherty said one of the tools that came out of the report includes 19 tactical sheets and Geographic Information System maps for the various neighbourhoods that list critical infrastructure locations, water source locations, along with one-way in and one-way out neighbourhoods, safe zones for responders and muster points.

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And all that information will be available through QR codes for task forces.

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“Extremely critical to have all this information done in advance,” Doherty said. “So it’s just unfortunate when an event does occur. At least we’re that much more prepared. And we have all that information readily available.”

While cost is a factor and Doherty said all the changes will be in the millions of dollars, there are many things they can do immediately through staff training and equipment upgrades using municipal funds and grant money.

“This year we’re looking to train upwards of 90 additional staff between the RMOW, Whistler Blackcomb and the Squamish Lil’wat Nation to a basic level of fighting wildfire,” Doherty added.

Click to play video: 'Downton Lake Wildfire update'

Downton Lake Wildfire update

David Evans, platoon captain in charge of wildfire defence purchasing and strategic planning, said the report is so helpful for first responders and residents. He said the department has 35 full-time firefighters and 60 paid on-call firefighters.

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“At any time, depending on our response, we’ll have up to 90 firefighters that could be on scene,” Evans said. “If we have a full turnout of all of our firefighters.”

Evans said the department also has Wildland 7 trucks, equipped for initial response within the community. They are loaded with lots of hoses, tactical firefighting equipment and gear that helps firefighters initially attack a fire while BC Wildfire crews might have to be called in.

“We have 1,600-gallon tanks in which we can relay pump through, numerous shovels and Pulaskis and whatnot, so we can attack a fire in its initial stages,” he added.

Evans added that it is important for everyone in the community to be involved in wildfire preparedness and protection.

“We’re first and foremost, firefighters are prideful in their job and our communities,” he said. “And their number one thing is to defend our community and the people in it and keep ourselves safe as well. And Whistler is making huge strides in and what we’re trying to do is just to make ourselves better prepared.”

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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