Fire season has come early. According to the BC Wildfire Service fire map, there have been several fires burning already throughout the province, including one in Deka Lake earlier in May.
“It’s a world-wide issue. I think you have to live under a rock to not know or see the news about how many structures and homes are being lost every year to wildfires,” said Darrell Pyke, the co-founder and technical director of WASP (Wildfire Automated Sprinkler Systems) who passed through 100 Mile House on May 9.
Pyke, a former wildfire contractor who attended the 2003 Terrace Mountain Wildfire and the Peace River wildfire in 2016, founded WASP seven years ago with his partner, Randy Cowling. The company holds the patent to a gutter-mounted sprinkler system that can be deployed from the ground.
“We have automated systems [the Ministry of] Forestry (MoF) and fire departments can set up in a small community, maybe around a trailer park. They’re able to control those systems with off their cellphones or a laptop,” he said.
The sprinklers are also available to homeowners. The sprinklers are low consumption and just hook up to a house’s gutter, requiring only a garden hose to protect the average-sized home. A bracket was also developed to help set it up on residences without a gutter.
The sprinkler, which sprays water in an 80-foot radius (40 on the roof, 40 for the back/front yard), can be placed on a timer.
“You don’t need a thousand gallons of water to protect a home. The way we protect it is from the roof down, that’s where you are going to get your ember attacks,” said Pyke.
He added that 80-90 per cent of homes lost during a wildfire is due embers landing on the roof and going into gutters, which then allow the embers to fall on wood piles or shrubbery, starting a fire.
“We are currently negotiating with three of the fire chiefs in the local area -Forest Grove, Lac la Hache and 100 Mile House,” said Pyke about WASP’s community program where they give fire departments the product to sell at their community events. “Part of the proceeds go directly into their fire department.
According to Pyke, WASP has over 100 fire departments involved in the program over the past two years in B.C. and Alberta.
They can be purchased from their website, www.waspwildfire.com.
WASP also has ten trailers called Sprinkler Protection Units (SPU) contracted to the MoF. They are about 20-foot in size and store enough gear to protect 100 homes each, including several hundred sprinklers, 15,000 feet oh hose of different types as well as four pumps and generators.
Pyke said the trailers can be deployed quickly and are manned by a four-person crew with two pickup trucks. WASP is working with a company based in Quesnel and Lumby called Seneca.
The company does tree planting as well as fight wildfires during the summertime with over several hundred people aboard.
Seneca provides the four people for each trailer.
Four of the trucks are stationed in the Prince George Fire Centre, another four are in Lumby in the Kamloops Fire Centre. The remaining two are based in the Vancouver area. Currently, there are none stationed in the Cariboo Fire Centre. Pyke said they were stationed strategically around the province.
“The trailers aren’t dedicated to that district. So for example, if there was an issue in 100 Mile House or 70 Mile House they would just call up which trailer is strategically closer or available. If there was a couple of trailers available in that Lumby area, they would just bring it up with a crew within hours, or even down from Prince George.”