Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse
Special to the News
All of Whitehorse is conscious of the danger posed by wildfire, especially one that tries to come into town like the Takhini Fire did in 1958. Whitehorse Council has made this one of their top priority issues. A detailed study was made in 2020 to more clearly understand the risk of a ‘wildland/urban interface fire – WUI’ to Whitehorse.
To reduce the risk, the city and territorial government have started to reduce the fire fuel in the area south of the city. To improve the ability to communicate with Whitehorse residents in the event of a WUI, the City has offered the Whitehorse Alert service to those who sign up.
These are all good moves but, for this fire season at least, the public has received very little information on evacuation in case of fire. Our group, the Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse wants to help fill this important gap. We urge Whitehorse residents to take the following steps:
Before the end of May
• Sign up for the City of Whitehorse “Whitehorse Alert” at Whitehorse.ca/emergency. It’s free! By doing this, emergency information about things like fires, evacuation orders, earthquakes can be communicated to you quickly.
• Review your 72-hour kit to make sure its ready (www.getprepared.ca)
• Make a plan for your evacuation if and when it is ordered. Where will you go if heading north or south (authorities will advise details in the event)? How will you communicate with friends and other family members?
• Clean the area around your house for potential fire starters (dead leaves, lumber or firewood close to your house, pine needles in your eavestroughs, etc.)
• For rural residents, if you have one, test your home sprinkler system.
During fire season
• Abide by any “no burn” announcements. Remember all open fires are prohibited within the City of Whitehorse, with the exception of a personal fire pit on your personal property or registered campsite with an appropriate fire pit for the purposes of cooking food. Exceptions may be made through the issuance of a permit; generally, these permits do not allow burning May through October.
• Keep your vehicle’s fuel tank full in case you have to evacuate.
• Be prepared to camp or be self sufficient for several days.
• Monitor the ‘fire weather index’ (as shown on the fire risk signs along the highway) and adjust your activities accordingly with respect to potential sources of fire such as cooking fires, smoking, and sparks from combustion engine exhaust.
• Post your evacuation planning on your refrigerator or near the door so all residents know about it.
• In hot dry weather be aware that the fire risk can quickly become extreme. Watch for lightning strikes and smoke in the sky from any nearby fires. Report them!
If you are instructed to evacuate
• Listen for any instructions from city or territorial officials. If you are signed up to Whitehorse Alert, you will receive instructions right on your phone and/or email.
• Move any gas BBQs or other propane, diesel and/or gas appliances and equipment away from the house.
• Remove window shades and curtains – they can catch fire from heat outside.
• Move furniture to the centre of the room, away from windows and doors.
• Shut all windows and doors and lock the door when you leave.
• Keep calm and respectful to others.
• In rural sub-divisions, consider starting your sprinkler systems before you leave.
You are responsible for your own safety – stay alert during fire season.
Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse consists of Ione Christiansen, Stuart Clark, Mike Gladish, Sandy Johnson, Bill Klassen, Dave Loeks and Myles Thorp.