Veteran smokejumpers may be ready by Friday

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The Prince George Fire Centre says that training for parattack crews in Fort St. John wraps up on May 20th, but veteran team members could be ready as soon as Friday.

Training for the smokejumpers began in late April, and the PGFC estimates that they’ll have about 70 certified jumpers by the end of the program.

The PGFC is also moving forward with other wildfire preparedness and mitigation efforts.

“As weather allows, we are going forward with the planned burns and prescribed fires,” Sharon Nickel with the PGFC said, adding that they haven’t been conducting many in the region yet.

Nickel says that crews have been conducting grass burns along the Tachie Highway corridor in the Vanderhoof – Fort St. James area.

“That particular project is to reduce fire hazards and protect BC Hydro infrastructure that supplies utilities to nearby communities,” Nickel explained.

“Many of the preparedness and prevention activities are looking at fuel management projects and those prescribed and planned burnings,” She continued.

Nickel says in April, the PGFC received below-average temperatures and above-average amounts of precipitation, which may carry on throughout May.

She adds that over the winter, most regions in the province received precipitation levels within 30 per cent of normal, but some stations in the PGFC, particularly in Fort Nelson, recorded up to 200 per cent of average winter precipitation.

“With that increased snowpack and then the cooler temperatures were having delayed melt with mid to high elevations,” Nickel said.

We are expecting a delay in the receptivity for lightning ignitions in those higher elevations and more water available for firefighting,” she adds.

Due to these cooler temperatures and the overall amount of precipitation, Nickel says there’s been an overall reduction in wildfire hazards across most of the province.

Despite increased amounts of precipitation, Nickel says the province experienced 74 fires in April 2022, nearly a historical average.

“Our five-year average is around 79, but the hectares burned only reached about 47 per cent of the five-year average. So, while we’ve had around the same amount of fires, they’ve been smaller,” Nickel said.

She adds that now is a great time for property owners to be looking at fire-smarting their homes and properties.

“There are really simple measures like clearing leaves from your gutters, eaves, porches and decks and then clearing fuels from structure ignition zones,” Nickel said.

For more ways to fire-smart your home, click here.

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