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Vancouver deploys water cannons to save trees hit by heat wave

Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation staff are using several FireBozz water cannons to wet trees in areas of the city that don't have access to irrigation. 
Water cannon
Ladysmith Fire Department tests out the FireBozz water cannons. Used to mitigate interface fires, Vancouver is now deploying them to save trees hit hard by the heat wave.

Vancouver is deploying several high-powered water cannons to help trees struggling in the aftermath of last month's record-setting heat wave.

Starting today (July 23), Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation staff are using several FireBozz water cannons to wet trees in areas of the city that don’t have access to irrigation. 

“Staff will begin working overtime weekend shifts to support downtown trees, which are at higher risk for drought due to their locations and the conditions in the downtown core,” writes a parks spokesperson in a press release. 

Trees under five years old were the heaviest hit during the heat wave and staff will be targeting them with another 1,000-litre water tank and pump. And next week, the city is bringing in another two 1,600-litre water trucks to help water the city’s trees. 

The emergency watering measures come after the Vancouver Park Board passed an emergency motion Monday.  

“There is no denying we are facing a climate emergency and it is having a direct impact on our urban trees,” said Commissioner Dave Demers in a written statement. 

“While our boulevard trees and those in urban parks are meant to withstand a few weeks of heat, the heat dome that we experienced earlier this summer put an incredible amount of stress on trees so we need additional measures to support their health.”

Among their many benefits, urban trees provide an important buffer against rising temperatures. In neighbourhoods with dense tree cover, modelling suggests that a pedestrian standing directly under a tree canopy would experience temperature reductions of 15.5 to 17.3 C. 

Demers urged residents and business improvement associations to do what they can to keep trees alive and healthy. That means watering trees in the neighbourhood by slowly pouring about two buckets of water twice a week around the outer edge of the tree in the same place rain would fall from overhead.

If you don’t have a bucket, a slow trickle from a hose on the base of the tree for several minutes will also help. 

Watering restrictions don’t apply to trees if done by hand. If using a sprinkler, you can water between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. on residential properties and from 1 a.m. and 9 a.m. everywhere else.

Anyone who spots a tree in distress is urged to report it by calling 311 or through the city’s VanConnect app. A distressed tree will usually have light-coloured drooping leaves.