Lardeau Versus Wildfire

A community creates a plan to defend itself.

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A community creates a plan to defend itself

“How are we going to protect Lardeau? What’s the best way to do it?” These are questions that members of the Lardeau Fire Prevention Association were asking themselves as another wildfire season approached. And the answer was: a wildfire structural protection sprinkler system.

With support from Columbia Basin Trust and the Regional District of Central Kootenay, the association is in the process of putting this important safeguard in place. This will include purchasing equipment like pumps, hoses and sprinkler heads that will be placed on the roofs of homes and in other key locations to protect upwards of 60 properties.

Rob Girard, President of the association, explains how this would work. “As the fire is getting closer to Lardeau, we would start the sprinkler system maybe two or three times a day for 20 minutes,” with water drawn from Kootenay Lake and Davis Creek. “And then as the firestorm is getting to Lardeau, we would have all the sprinklers running.”

Meanwhile, the people operating the system would stay in a secure location as the fire passed, likely in a boat on the lake. Afterwards, they would move in to put out spot fires.

It’s a vital plan when provincial wildfire crews and equipment often find themselves busy elsewhere in the province and couldn’t necessarily respond quickly to a fire near Lardeau.

The Trust offers support to help communities meet such needs. Residents around the region are also concerned about the effects of climate change—including the increasing number and severity of wildfires—so the Trust helps communities prepare to prevent and lesson the impacts of disasters.

To make sure it executes the plan well, Lardeau is undertaking a well-thought-out process, including bringing in specialists and vendors to discuss possibilities and meeting with property owners. In October 2022, about 40 residents attended an open house and pancake breakfast.

“Our community, more than ever, really has embraced structure sprinkler protection and are pleased with the direction we are going,” says Rob. “It was great to see and confirm that sprinklers on rooftops in Lardeau are wanted and definitely needed during an approaching wildfire.”

The next step is to purchase the equipment, which will be followed by training and testing in spring 2023.

“It should be highly successful,” Rob says, even though he hopes they never have to use it.

Plus, the equipment will be stored in a trailer that can travel to other communities threatened by wildfire. Lardeau’s system may also inspire other communities to create sprinkler protection plans of their own.

“It’s just another tool in the big toolkit in the area that will help us keep our communities safe,” Rob says. “We have some really great things ahead.”

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