A consultant who updated wildfire protection plan for District of North Vancouver wants it to pay attention to a critical gap — an unreliable water infrastructure, especially insufficient water pressure to fight fires.
“If there is one thing you really need to focus on it is that some of your water infrastructure is not up to speed. It was a recommendation from the last plan, and if there is something you need to focus on in more detail, it’s that. You have done some work on it, but there is a lot more to do. We don’t have reliable water infrastructure in some parts of the district from the perspective of fighting fire,” said Bruce Blackwell, a fire and forestry expert who updated DNV’s plan.
Blackwell spoke to the council on October 7. He didn’t elaborate before the council which specific areas had problems, but the plan calls for the district to address this critical issue.
“DNV has also identified issues with water pressure within particular areas that have fire hydrant service, and there are known limitations to water supply for firefighting in areas not supplied by the District water systems and consequently without hydrant service,” Blackwell’s report reads.
Blackwell suggests the district buy a tender or tank to provide additional on-site water storage for the Woodlands area and the Baden Powell trail. The district should also consider installing an alarm system to warn of de-pressurisation of water lines, find ways to improve water availability, and ensure domestic water needs were not compromised in an emergency, he said.
Other suggestions include ensuring all new development outside the district water systems have a water system which meets water supplies standards. He also suggests buying an ATV equipped with fire suppression equipment that can be used for rapid access in remote or limited access under district boundaries.
Blackwell said the district had done a commendable job in following all the recommendations of the 2007 plan. His new update offers district 52 recommendations to ensure it is ready to fight wildfire in the community.
Besides water infrastructure, he said, the community needed to be updated on being FireSafe. Since 1950, data shows nearly 60 per cent of the fires have been caused by humans.
“We need to get people to focus on their homes. We have tremendous amount of vulnerable building stock and inflammable hedging that we need to focus on. We need to communicate that people need to change some of their landscaping because I believe it is a house fire that spreads to cedar hedge and then moves to the forest and beyond,” he said.
He also strongly recommended that district fire services should be better trained in fighting wildfire to reduce dependence on BC Wildfire Service.
“We can’t rely on the BC wildfire service. They get busy, and they have been overwhelmed. We need our own fire service to address not only structural fires but also wildland fires,” Blackwell said.