Background

For much of the year, wildfire is the biggest single risk to the communities of Denman Island and Hornby Island. Due to climate change, increases in dry materials and increases in population density, the risk continues to grow. Being island communities, practicing emergency procedures is essential to ensuring residents’ health and safety.

In the past year the CVRD has taken three major steps to mitigate these risks:

  • A full revision of the Denman Island & Hornby Island Evacuation Guidelines in 2020.
  • Receipt of almost $100,000 in grant funding to undertake FireSmart activities in all three electoral areas and K’ómoks First Nation.
  • Two wildfire exercises on Denman Island:
    • A tabletop exercise September 29, 2021, and
    • A functional exercise October 16, 2021

Exercises prepare teams to respond effectively to large scale emergency incidents. The goal of the exercise is to help enhance knowledge of plans, allow members to improve performance and identify opportunities to improve skills to real events. Tabletop exercises are informal discussions, based on a scenario such as a wildfire, which allows participants to discuss their roles during an emergency and how they would respond. Functional exercises allow agencies and personnel to test emergency plans and their readiness by actually performing their duties in a simulated environment. For this wildfire exercise it will include staging and testing a variety of fire suppression equipment, communication systems, and performing a small evacuation.

In both exercises the scenario will begin with a small fire being reported in the Chickadee Lake area. In the tabletop scenario the fire will be fed by moderate winds, grow fairly rapidly, and threaten a larger populated area. Participants will be encouraged to not only respond to the threat at hand, but to think hours and maybe even days ahead, pre-planning for what could happen. The functional exercise will deal primarily with the threat at hand and what steps are needed to protect both the residents and property at immediate risk. Participating fire departments will be staging fire equipment at different sites and two homes will be set up with operational sprinkler systems. There will also be a small evacuation of 3-5 homes. Both exercises will include testing communications and connecting with the CVRD’s Emergency Operations Centre in Courtenay.

The Denman Island wildfire exercises are funded in part by the Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) Program grant. This grant has also been used to fund the very popular chipping programs that have been held on the islands over the last two years.

A few agencies that will be participating in the exercises are Denman Island Fire Rescue, Hornby Island Fire Rescue, Oyster River Fire Rescue, Union Bay Fire Rescue, the Fanny Bay Fire Department, the RCMP, the BC Wildfire Service, Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue, Comox Valley Emergency Radio Communications, Denman Island Emergency Support Services, The Salvation Army, and the Comox Valley Emergency Program.

Although the exercises will take place on Denman Island, the plan and procedures being tested are very similar for Hornby Island, and as such this is a learning opportunity that will benefit both communities.

Practicing FireSmart principles around your home, property and neighbourhood will help reduce your communities’ risk. For more information on the FireSmart Program and how you can protect your home, go to: www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/firesmart

As part of the exercise, the Comox Valley Emergency Program will be testing their local emergency notification system on October 15. Residents are encouraged to visit www.comoxvalleyrd.ca/getnotified to sign up for local emergency alerts that will be delivered to your phone(s) by text or voicemail.

Contact Information

Contact George Doerksen, Comox Valley Emergency Program, online or by phone at 250-334-6000.