Smoke but no fire: North Shore practises wildfire response and evacuations ahead of summer
Operation Dry Lightning includes mock evacuations and a smoke machine
Where there's smoke, there's usually fire — but not this week on Vancouver's North Shore.
The North Shore Emergency Management is simulating a wildfire and conducting a mock evacuation to improve its response in an exercise called Operation Dry Lightning.
"Historically, the North Shore has not seen frequent large fires," said Fiona Dercole, director of the emergency response agency.
"But the climate is changing and we're seeing longer, warmer, drier summers. We're concerned the fire risk will increase over time."
The mock evacuation runs on Tuesday near Cypress Falls in West Vancouver and Kilmer Creek in North Vancouver.
Crews of uniformed police officers and bylaw officers are knocking door-to-door on about 600 homes, letting residents know what the procedure would be if it was a real fire.
"People will not be asked to actually evacuate today, we'll just be giving them information about emergency preparedness," Dercole told CBC's The Early Edition.
The two neighbourhoods were chosen for the drill because of how close they are to the forest.
On Thursday, crews will be out with a smoke machine, helicopters and emergency response vehicles to practise suppressing a wildfire.
"There's several agencies that would come together if it was a real wildfire," Dercole said.
"So, we're going to practice interagency co-operation as well."
She pointed to the wildfire near Horseshoe Bay last summer, which grew to three hectares and took four days to put out, as one example of the learning that comes from hands-on experience.
"We're using some of the lessons learned around communication — air-to-ground communication between the helicopter and the crews on the ground," she said.
Operation Dry Lightning runs April 30 and May 2.
With files from The Early Edition