How getting FireSmart™ helped protect Logan Lake from wildfires9/25/2023
In August 2021, the picturesque town of Logan Lake in the BC interior was under threat from the rapidly approaching Tremont Creek Wildfire. The homes and lives of 2,000 residents were in danger as flames roared closer to their homes.
First discovered outside the town on July 12, the fire kept growing for a month before a state of emergency was called and it became necessary to evacuate the entire town. But amidst the fear and uncertainty, the town's involvement with FireSmart BC, an organization dedicated to helping British Columbians increase our resilience to wildfires, was a beacon of hope.
Logan Lake had been affiliated with FireSmart BC for 18 years leading up to the fire, and in 2013, Logan Lake became Canada’s first official FireSmart community. BCAA Customer Care Manager Ruth-Anne Fanning, whose parents still live in the town, recalls how Logan Lake got FireSmart before the Tremont Creek wildfire attacked.
"The town completed forest management, fire breaks and other mitigation,” Ruth-Anne explained. "The fire burned all the way up to Logan Lake’s municipal boundaries but then ran out of fuel, saving the town."
Laying the foundation to reduce wildfire damage
Well before the wildfire threatened Logan Lake, firefighters conducted free FireSmart Home Assessments for every resident. Home Assessments delivered through FireSmart’s Home Partners Program give homeowners a clear picture of the preventative measures that can be taken to help protect each home and reduce the chances of a property catching fire. Find out more about the Home Partners Program here.
In addition, roof sprinklers were also supplied to residents for a nominal charge. The sprinklers reduce the temperature of the houses and drench the homes, making it less likely that flames will spread if an ember lands on them.
After simmering and spreading for a month, on August 12, 2021, the Tremont Creek Wildfire bore down on Logan Lake. In an interview with CBC, Logan Lake Fire Chief Doug Wilson remembered the tension. "We knew it was a matter of when it was going to hit, no longer if," he said.
The wildfire was 36,411 hectares in size and out of control. Approximately 1,100 properties were evacuated, uprooting roughly 2,000 people. The evacuees had nowhere to stay in nearby Ashcroft or Merritt, so they had to stay in Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley, over two hours away. There, the Logan Lakers could only watch the news, helplessly, as the flames edged closer to their homes.
Dozens of fire crews from BC and Alberta were brought in to battle the blaze. The BC Wildfire Service fought the fire with ground crews, heavy equipment and aerial resources including helicopters, water skimmers and airtankers. But they were facing hot, dry conditions and gusting winds, the perfect conditions for wildfire acceleration and destruction.
Fortunately, the preparation paid off. Adopting FireSmart principles in the community and on individual homes prevented the flames from spreading. The town-wide sprinkler system misted the houses and played a valuable part in protecting Logan Lake's homes.
“As the town was evacuated, firefighters went around town and hooked up all the roof sprinklers to regular garden hoses which kept the houses wet. There was one house where the fire burned up to just 30 feet away,” Ruth-Anne said.
The ’bladder bags’ and sprinkler systems in use (image credit: District of Logan Lake)
Why getting FireSmart can be invaluable for BC communities
This sprinkler system, combined with the community's readiness and the tireless efforts of firefighters, ensured that Logan Lake's heart continued to beat.
The community's prevention paid off and the town remained intact. Not a single home was lost to the fire. Six days later, the residents – including Ruth-Anne’s parents – were allowed to safely return to their homes.
"There is no doubt that in my mind Logan Lake’s involvement with FireSmart saved the town,” says Ruth-Anne, who admits the memory of the threatening flames will always stick with her.
"The elation when the evacuation order was lifted and the firefighters lining up at the entrance to the town to welcome everyone back to the community they saved... it was a testament to the preparation and hard work they endured fighting the fire."
The importance of FireSmart's work in Logan Lake extended beyond its immediate residents. BCAA's announcement of a partnership with FireSmart BC filled Ruth-Anne with pride.
"I was excited and so proud to work for a purpose-led organization that really cares about communities across British Columbia," Ruth-Anne said.
In the face of feeling the impact of wildfires, Logan Lake stood tall, fortified by preparation and collaboration. Ruth-Anne Fanning's hometown, her parent's community, is a shining example of the positive impact the partnership FireSmart BC and BCAA can have on all BC communities.
How we help British Columbians build wildfire resiliency
Since 2021, BCAA has partnered with FireSmart BC to help educate British Columbians on wildfire preparedness and increase access to FireSmart’s resources for people who are remote, rural and most at-risk.
Once again, 2023 was described as ‘the worst wildfire season in our provinces history’. Wildfires are becoming more frequent and intense, so BCAA is investing $750,000 into wildfire preparedness and prevention with FireSmart BC to help more communities like Logan Lake increase their resilience to wildfire.
To learn more about our partnership, the FireSmart Begins at Home Guide, and how you can get your own extreme weather plan in place, including tips and resources to FireSmart your property, visit bcaa.com/resilience.