B.C. is currently in the midst of the worst wildfire season in history, with more than 1.4 million hectares of land already lost to wildfires that have wreaked havoc across the province. With upcoming weather conditions expected to fuel the flames and potentially spark new wildfires, the B.C. government is urging citizens, including multi-unit tenants and property owners, to be prepared for more evacuations and closely follow regional fire prohibitions.
“During the past week, B.C. has seen record-breaking heat accompanied by dry air masses, especially in the south of the province,” the August 17th statement read. “The heat has compounded the existing drought conditions affecting much of the province, and heightened the wildfire risk.”
Making matters worse, cold, dry air is expected to break down the existing high-pressure ridge, causing strong, shifting winds and dry lightning. In recent days, thousands of people living in the Kelowna and Okanagan area have been forced to flee their homes, as further north, wildfires in the Northwest Territories continue to rage, requiring an unprecedented 20,000 Yellowknife residents to evacuate.
“Wildfires can be absolutely devastating,” said David Hutniak, CEO, LandlordBC. “As a landlord or property manager, it is critical that you monitor media and fire authority reporting, particularly if your rental property is in an area where an evacuation alert is in effect.”
In the event of an evacuation order, Hutniak says landlords should immediately begin robust communication with tenants using all tools necessary, including in-person directives, as phone lines and internet could be compromised. He also urges landlords to assist vulnerable tenants, including seniors or those with disabilities, by connecting them with local evacuation resources or even by physically helping them safely vacate their units, if required.
“If you know a tenant is refusing to evacuate during a wildfire, you may want to notify the authorities in your area for their own safety,” he added.
Tips and resources for tenants
Before travelling anywhere in the province, landlords should remind tenants to check for road closures, evacuation alerts, evacuation orders and other prohibitions, and to follow all instructions from First Nations or local authorities. Information and updates are available at BCWildfire.ca, or alternatively, tenants can download the BC Wildfire Service app.
If evacuation orders have been received, tenants should be advised to connect with friends and family for safe, temporary lodging, or to contact Emergency Support Services (ESS) if they are unable to find accommodations. For those in hard-hit regions and as evacuation orders expand, the Ministry of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness will continue to assess capacity for group lodging and is proactively opening other evacuation spaces throughout the province.
Fire prevention and preparedness
Early reporting of new wildfires is crucial to getting firefighters quickly to new starts and containing them more easily. Wildfires can be reported by calling 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone or by downloading the BC Wildfire Service app. The mobile app allows individuals to submit photos along with their report, which helps inform the BC Wildfire Service’s operational decision-making.
Additionally, the B.C. government is urging people across the province to take extreme care to ensure their own activities are not a source of a future wildfire ignition: “Everyone should be aware of current fire conditions in their area and abide by any existing alerts or evacuation orders.”
For the latest update on B.C.’s State of Emergency, visit: Current Wildfire Information: August 21, 2023 | EmergencyInfoBC (gov.bc.ca) Also, Anyone interested in downloading and sharing a Emergency Preparedness Checklist can do so at: Emergency-Wildfire-Preparedness-Checklist.pdf (firesmartbc.ca)