COQUITLAM, B.C., May 13, 2021 – Eagle Mountain Park is closed to the public today, Thursday, May 13, for a multi-agency wildfire training exercise that will include smoke, loud noise, emergency vehicles and a helicopter.
The City has closed Eagle Mountain Park and area trails from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. as Coquitlam Fire/Rescue (CFR) conducts a multi-agency training exercise for wildland urban interface fires – fires in natural areas next to urban development.
There will be no public viewing opportunities, and residents are asked to avoid the area.
Grant Supports Multi-agency Exercise
A large-scale wildfire would be devastating in Coquitlam, which – like many other Metro Vancouver communities – has many homes and developed areas located close to forests and natural areas.
Last year, the City of Coquitlam successfully applied for a $25,000 grant from the Province of British Columbia, and administered by the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) to help CFR better prepare for wildland interface fires, including conducting a multi-agency exercise to enhance interagency understanding, cooperation and response.
The practice scenario for the event will simulate a wildfire in August, after more than a week of dry weather, blistering heat and an extreme fire danger rating. In the scenario, Fortis’ Eagle Mountain facility and local residents initially report the fire, which is believed to have been caused by park users. As the fire quickly spreads and threatens nearby homes and infrastructure, CFR calls in other agencies for support.
Crews taking part in the exercise will use specialized wildfire suppression and structural protection equipment, aircraft bucketing and a cutting-edge, real-time mapping ARCGIS Collector App for a simulated Evacuation Alert notification.
CFR crews also practiced evacuation notification procedures on Tuesday, May 11, when they went door-to-door to 300 homes surrounding the area with information about the exercise and tips for residents on measures they can take to help prevent wildfires in the interface area.
Nine organizations will participate along with CFR: Port Moody Fire & Rescue, Port Coquitlam Fire & Emergency Services, Metro Vancouver Wildfire Response, BC Wildfire Service, Coquitlam RCMP, Talon Helicopters, fire exercise consultants GetSet Solutions, Coquitlam Search & Rescue, as well as the City’s Bylaws, Parks, Engineering and Public Works’ Geomatics and Information and Communications Technology divisions.
Enhancing Existing Wildfire Preparation
The exercise will build on CFR’s existing wildland interface preparedness, which includes:
- A Wildfire Protection Plan and Mundy Park Forest Management Plan;
- Three Structure Protection Unit trailers;
- Wildfire interface training for all CFR personnel, along with a team of trained wildfire interface specialists who are often deployed to support provincial wildfire response; and
- Steps to mitigate wildland urban interface fires including a wildfire buffer in northwest Coquitlam, a summer water restriction relaxation program, park patrols by CFR and bylaw officers, and regulations in high-risk areas imposed through an Interface Wildfire Risk Management Development Permit Area.
Doing Your Part to Prevent Wildfires
Coquitlam’s wildfire risk continues to grow as summers grow drier and longer, and more and more people flock to the City’s natural spaces. Human activity, such as campfires and discarded smoking materials, continue to be the leading cause of wildfires.
Other factors are also at play. For example, forests become more vulnerable to fire as invasive species attack the health of trees, and natural debris builds up on urban forest floors instead of being burned away in wildfires, as it does in the wild.
People who live near Coquitlam’s wooded areas are urged to prepare their homes:
- Keep combustible materials at least 1.5 metres from the home, and piles of firewood at least 10 metres away;
- Keep your home’s roof and gutters free of leaves and pine needles, and prune all branches that hang over the roof;
- Choose fire-safe vegetation and space it to prevent a continuous line of vegetation leading to the home;
- Remove all dead/dry vegetation and trim tree limbs two to three meters from the ground;
- Choose non-combustible roofing, building and landscape materials;
- Know where your home’s gas, electric and water shut-offs are; and
- Have a wildfire escape plan in place.
More information can be found at www.coquitlam.ca/interfacefire.
City of Coquitlam