Warm summers may be ample conditions for crops, but they also come with an increased likelihood of wildfires. As of August 30th, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) reported 4,870 fires, which have burned 2,983,460 ha. New fire starts totalled 217, which is well above average for this time of year.
Fire safety is no joke, so we brought in Shanyn Silinski, who has had vast experiences which taught her the importance of being safe on the farm. She is a self-admitted coffee addict, a Grainews writer, a loving mother, and she held a role as a firefighter.
Our last article with Shanyn discussed Ag Safety as the key to maintaining our labour force. For this article, we discuss Fire Safety, and her experiences have taught her ways to prevent loss due to wildfires. So listen close!
AGRALINKS: Shanyn, were there any fires in your area over the last year?
Shanyn: Yes! We had a number of fire bans, and many wildland grassland fires impacted farms and acreages. Towns were taking a look at their fire preparedness to understand what their vulnerabilities were and addressing them.
AGRALINKS: We had a number of incidents last summer in Southern AB too with the spread from Waterton. Dry summers truly amplify the threat.
Shanyn: It seems like we’re ahead of ourselves, and there are a number of communities that are dealing with flooding. It is definitely a concern when you consider how fast a fire can spread, and the impact on people when it roars through. So, being prepared and understanding how to assess your preparedness is critical any time of year. The best time to be planning is when you don’t need to have your plan being put into action.
In agriculture, we plan all the time. We plan for seeding, we plan for calving, we plan for storage; we’re always planting seeds in our heads, and planning for safety should always be part of that process. We want to be better prepared for things when they actually start happening. Rather than being reactive, we should be proactive.
Another challenge is that so many volunteer first responders go to aid others, when their own properties don’t have anyone watching out. It impacts everybody. If you see that smoke on the horizon, and you know there’s a danger, you’re always smelling for smoke, and being on edge. A lot of stress can be alleviated by planning and being prepared.
AGRALINKS: What are some most common causes for farm fires that you’ve seen?
Shanyn: We used to joke that the main causes were lightning, men, women and children because the majority of causes are natural like lightning, or some level of human interaction; whether by accident, or sadly, people starting fires on purpose. That’s not to say that some don’t start naturally, but a lot happen as a result of the choices that people make. Fires happen along railway tracks all the time because railways have lots of sparks, and fuel loads, and go along ditches.
AGRALINKS: What are the negative impacts of a fire?
- Physical cost; Someone being seriously injured or killed
- Economic cost; costing home, equipment, or the cost to the municipality
- Emotional cost; it is terrifying to think about fighting a fire, and mentally/physically exhausting. The recovery process to rebuild, and have trust that you will be better prepared if there is a “next time”.
AGRALINKS: What are the positive impacts of having a farm emergency plan?
- The biggest positive impact is you have the peace of mind that you know you’re as prepared as you can be for a situation that may arise. You know your yard, your field, you connected with your fire department, and you made a plan to share with people who can implement that plan if you’re not there.
- Being able to help your neighbors if you’re confident in your own preparedness.
AGRALINKS: Do you have any final tips you would give to anyone making major safety changes in the near future?
Shanyn: Identify ways in and ways out of your acreage. Identify ones that are good year-round, and ones that are only good when dry. Know your yard, and the hazards within. Understand how you can explain that to someone. Take a screenshot on google earth, or draw on paper. That will help you prepare a great plan.
Take the approach that you’re looking at this for the first time, because first responders will too. Let your family know that you are thinking about them, and get their involvement to share some ideas.
Shanyn has been working on a free, downloadable planning guide to share with AGRALINKS readers in our next article, so be sure to come back!
We want to thank Shanyn Silinski for sharing her knowledge, and preparing a planning guide for us next week. We know our readers appreciate it.
If you would like to talk to Shanyn about your ideas, she can be reached on Twitter:
Next article ideas:
How to file a fire insurance claim?
What does living on-farm mean for safety?