Shayne Mintz

Shayne Mintz

Food trucks may seem like a strange topic for a column, but these kitchens on wheels are a becoming an issue for the fire service, particularly people in fire protection and prevention.
How well do your public-education efforts protect your citizens in public-assembly buildings?
In my travels, certain NFPA standards come up more often than others in conversations. Recently there has been interest in NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting.
When will something finally be done to develop a building code for the wildland urban interface?
Are your fire crews prepared to respond to incidents involving electric, hybrid, or fuel-cell vehicles?
Over the winter, there were more large-profile barn fires in the news than I can recall in recent memory. At one point it was difficult to keep track of them all.
Good fire-service leaders know the benefits of a solid and comprehensive strategic plan; it provides the opportunity to analyze the current state, identifies what risks or threats may exist or lie beyond the horizon, can help highlight future opportunities and pitfalls, and can provide the organization with vision, goals, and objectives to pursue in a world of continuous improvement.
It’s that time of year again, when fire departments should start thinking about wildland fire awareness and Wildfire Community Preparedness Day.

I know it seems odd that a discussion about wildland fire should begin in the dead of the Canadian winter, but very quickly winter turns to spring, and spring to summer, and – if the proper conditions develop – in many places across Canada that means wildland fire season.

According to Natural Resources Canada, wildland fire consumes an average of 2.3 million hectares per year and causes millions of dollars in damage, not just to the forestry industry but also to residential and municipal properties. Wildfire responds quickly to fuels found in the forest, grasslands or backyards, and without proper mitigation and landscape management it will burn homes and any other vulnerable structures in its path.

Kelly Johnston, the executive director of Partners in Protection, said unless Canadian communities take action, the threat of wildfires will only become worse.

“Wildfires have always been a natural process in Canada’s forests,” Johnston said. “However, as we experienced in 2015, a changing climate, increasing large fire activity and increasing development trends create a serious threat throughout Canada – putting neighbourhoods, communities and firefighter safety at risk every year.”

Wildfire is a part of natural ecosystems, however, interface situations can occur in all but the most heavy urban environments. It is important that fire services and their communities recognize that wildfire isn’t just limited to municipalities with towns built within or nearby heavy or dense forests. Wildland interface exists in many more settings such as urban forests, municipal green spaces, farms and recreational areas such as cottage or camp communities. Any place where trees, tall grasses, crops or natural vegetation grow and shed annually should be considered as fuel load that when coupled with an ignition source from human or natural activity all contribute to a wildfire risk.

Wildfire management has traditionally been the purview of provincial ministries that work with Natural Resources Canada and co-ordinate with the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. However, there is a growing expectation that municipal structural firefighters will be trained and prepared to respond to and extinguish wildland fires that may or may not impact homes and structures that belong to local taxpayers. There is a great opportunity here for local fire services to take the lead by participating in the second annual national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 7.

The national Wildfire Community Preparedness Day program centres around the promotion of wildfire community protection awareness activities. This day is an excellent public-education opportunity for fire services to help community members recognize the hazards of wildfire; suggest ways they can mitigate or prevent wildfire from impacting their community; and teach them ways to minimize any damage done.

Partners in Protection Association (the non-profit organization behind FireSmart Canada), in partnership and support from the NFPA, the Co-operators Insurance Group, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and several provincial natural resources ministries have pooled together $23,000 to award communities that organize Wildfire Community Preparedness Day activities.

Beginning Jan. 25 through to March 12, anyone 19 years or older can apply for an award to conduct wildfire-preparedness activities or events. There will be a total of 20 nationally awarded and 14 provincially awarded $500 prizes available. Acceptable projects should focus on reducing the risk of wildfire in a community through education, hazard reduction or advanced-preparedness activities. Projects may include working with neighbours to clear leaves and other combustible debris from gutters of homes and buildings, raking leaves and combustible debris from under decks, moving woodpiles away from buildings, using a chipper service to dispose of slash or winterkill, or distributing wildfire-safety information. Groups of all sorts and individuals of all ages are encouraged to participate.

For those communities that may still have snow on the ground on May 7, it is the perfect chance to engage community members in pre-planning and public-education sessions for activities to take place when the snow is gone.

To learn more about Wildlife Community Preparedness Day in Canada and how to apply for funding, please visit www.firesmartcanada.ca, or feel free to contact me.


Shayne Mintz is the Canadian Regional Director for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Contact him at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , and follow him on Twitter at @ShayneMintz


Have you ever had a question about standards or best practices and didn’t know who to ask?
You’re the fire chief – what can you tell me about residential fire sprinklers? Did you know the NFPA can help?
If a disaster like the train derailment and subsequent inferno that caused 47 fatalities in Lac-Megantic were to occur in your community, would you, your department and your municipality be prepared to respond? Would you be capable of mitigating the incident and prevent or minimize the loss of life and property? Could you work effectively and efficiently alongside non-government agencies to find a resolution?
When it comes to fire-service training, it is caveat emptor – or buyer beware.
There is a constant and almost daily injection of new technology into our lives, homes and workplaces. But the gradual pace at which the latest-and-greatest technology works its way into the fire service is often frustratingly slow.
There’s a trend for buildings made of wood to be built higher and higher. Communities and entire economies in Canada and the United States are built on the lumber industry, and with the decline of the North American pulp and paper market, the wood industry has suffered.
For those of you who may not be aware, I am the new Canadian regional director of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Sean Tracey’s successor.

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