And the impact of dry spells on Burnaby's parks
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Good morning, Srushti!

It's officially the last month of summer. Yes, I know September is still technically summer, but it doesn't count because kids are back to school and some people are already talking about Christmas and you need a light jacket.

August brings with it what I like to call PSADS, or pre-seasonal affective disorder sadness, because I hate winter and this is the last month I can pretend I don't know it's coming. So for the next month you'll find me really trying to ✨live it up✨ and bank some happy summer memories to get me through winter.

Just think of me as a squirrel hoarding nuts, except the nuts are 6 months worth of serotonin.

Srushti Gangdev, reporter

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The Burnaby Fire Department believes a fire around the Trans Mountain terminal could be have catastrophic consequences. 📷 City of Burnaby
Fire hall funding coming to Burnaby Mountain
The federal government has committed $30 million to build a long-requested fire hall for the mountain

The federal government is committing $30 million to build a new fire hall on Burnaby Mountain.

Burnaby North-Seymour MP Terry Beech made the announcement late Friday afternoon, as rumours of a forthcoming election continue to grow.

In Friday’s announcement, the federal government said the funding is coming following “extensive conversation and collaborative efforts with” the city and fire department around residents’ concerns.

“This investment also supports the continued growth of our economy and addresses the unique emergency management needs related to our community’s mountain location and growing population,” Beech said in a written statement.

“This initiative also stands as a testament to what’s possible through the power of collaboration and open communication across government jurisdictions.”

A fire hall on Burnaby Mountain has been a major ask from the fire department, which has suggested in the past that the federal government should foot at least part of the bill.

Fire Chief Chris Bowcock told the Beacon earlier this year that the need for a fire hall up on the mountain comes from concerns about response times not only for the university and UniverCity, but for fire emergencies at the Trans Mountain tank farm on the southwest side of the mountain.

Residents have told the Beacon they are concerned that a fire at the facility would leave residents of UniverCity trapped in a wall of toxic smoke from the oil in the tanks.

Bowcock told Burnaby Beacon that residents believe the federal government should at least contribute to funding the fire hall, since much of the concern comes from a facility that is opposed by most Burnaby residents.

Mayor Mike Hurley said the city welcomes the investment and thanked Beech for his part in securing the funding.

“It is an important step towards keeping this vibrant community and sensitive ecological area safe. The Burnaby Fire Department is well-trained, and this investment ensures that they will be well equipped to deal with changing emergency management needs of the community,” Hurley said.

The announcement hasn’t been met entirely with open arms. A group that has organized to oppose the removal of over 1,300 trees in the Brunette River conservation area for the pipeline to run through said on Twitter that it doesn’t make up for the impact of fossil fuels on the potential for fires in the first place.

“What good is a fire hall when you've burned down & poisoned your environment for a pipeline? #StopTMX! This is your best line of defence,” the group wrote.

—By Dustin Godfrey

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Dead leaves adorn a tree in Central Park on July 31, 2021. Experts say the impact of the recent dry spell on plants and urban greenery is a concern. 📷 Srushti Gangdev
How dry spells are affecting our parks
The bigger issue, experts say, is the extreme heat that comes from heat waves and, as experienced earlier this year, heat domes

It’s been more than 40 days since it rained in Burnaby (excluding a very brief rain shower on Saturday), and if you’ve noticed an impact on the city’s parks and plants, you’re not alone.

The grassy expanses in Central Park are usually filled with lush greenery, but on a walk through the park today, you will see lots of yellow and brown instead. Meanwhile, Lower Mainland residents have reported seeing trees lose their leaves unseasonably early.

It’s something climate experts and the City of Burnaby are both keeping an eye on.

Deborah Harford, adjunct professor at SFU and executive director of the adaptation to climate change team, says the impact to grass is less of a concern.

“It just goes dormant, and it comes back with the fall rains … So it's visually a bit shocking, but it's not actually dead,” she told the Beacon.

“But it does have obviously major ramifications for, for instance, tree species like willows that need lots of water. And this is important to think about, because these conditions are going to become more frequent and intense.”

Harford said what’s more concerning is the impact the recent heat has had on urban trees. Most of the trees in the Lower Mainland are adapted to the kind of conditions we’re currently facing, she said—because while the temperatures rarely reach the heights we saw at the end of June and this past weekend, we do often go long stretches without rain in the summer.

“What wasn't normal was having that heat dome. So I think what you're seeing (trees shedding their leaves) is the impact of extreme shock,” Harford said.

“And that has us concerned because the projections are that [heat domes] are going to go from like 1 [in] however many 100 years to like 1 in every 5-10 years.”

City of Burnaby parks and recreation director Dave Ellenwood told the Beacon that he’s already noticing dryer summers than the ones he remembers a decade ago. The City of Burnaby has taken steps to protect its urban trees, including adding lots of mulch around newly planted and young trees to absorb and preserve water, and implementing stringent watering schedules.

When the experts predict that extreme heat will become more and more common as an effect of climate change, it’s important to think about the future. Harford said urban planners have to make careful decisions about how urban greenery is managed and selected.

That means choosing tree species that are able to withstand both the typical wet conditions we see in the Lower Mainland and the Pacific Northwest, but that can also tolerate extremely hot, dry conditions that are expected to become more and more common.

Further, because climate change also brings with it more frequent downpours of rain, it means making sure the landscape around us is absorbent and built for potential flash floods.

Harford said if heat waves really do become more common and more extreme, cities are going to need to make it a priority to take care of their greenery.

“Trees help to cool us down when it's really hot, so it provides a service to humans and also to animals, birds, etc,” she said.

“If you look at heat maps, over cities, like infrared maps, you see such a lower temperature wherever there's greenery. So it's actually going to help us in the future to keep ourselves a bit cooler than if we just got a lot of concrete and asphalt.”

Burnaby, with its expansive greenspace—more than 5,400 acres (2,200 hectares) of it—already has an advantage over other cities in that respect, and not just in the sense of keeping temperatures themselves down.

“As we really found out during COVID, having places people can go helps people cool down. So there's a lot of benefits that you can identify. That even helps reduce emissions, because where you have more green space, you need less air conditioning, and [there’s] less heat accumulating in the city,” Harford said.

“They help people cool down because they can walk underneath the trees and that kind of thing. And it also helps absorb flood water and that kind of thing.”

While municipalities can make decisions about what species of trees are planted in parks and on streets, a tougher problem is protecting urban forests (which are abundant in Burnaby, in areas like Central Park, Deer Lake, Burnaby Lake, and in the areas around SFU and Burnaby Mountain).

Some species of trees common in our forests, like pines, are well-adapted to hot and dry conditions. Others, like cedars, need a lot of rain to stay healthy.

Meanwhile, dryer summers lead to other changes in forest ecosystems—like an increase in invasive pests. Harford said the mountain pine beetle, for instance, has been growing in prevalence in the last decade, killing thousands of hectares of trees, because the winters aren’t cold enough to kill the species back every year.

“Another example is just the forest floor. So that has serious implications not only for the health of the forest ecosystems, but also for wildfire, because the more trees that die back, the more dead wood you've got out there, and the more it’s like kindling,” she said.

“We have this kind of feedback loop that we have to think about … what happens to the wild parts of the forest, where they aren't managing them, [which] is really concerning.”

Harford noted that forests are good at adapting, however; when some species die back, others find opportunities to start growing.

—By Srushti Gangdev


🌳 City asking residents to be park smart: Amid a high fire danger and extremely dry conditions, the City of Burnaby is reminding park users that the use of barbecues (except for propane barbecues) at Burnaby parks and beaches is prohibited until further notice, and smoking is not allowed at any park, trail, or green space. If you see signs of fire, call 911 immediately.

💉 Fraser Health moving to "vaccine hub model", closing Burnaby immunization clinic: As more residents get their 2nd vaccine dose, the health authority says it's moving away from the network of mass immunization clinics it currently has and focusing on "hubs" in Surrey, Coquitlam, Abbotsford, and North Delta, and on pop-up clinics and mobile vans. Some clinics will close entirely, including the one at Christine Sinclair Community Centre on August 7. The BCIT testing and immunization centre will remain open.

🚧 BC Hydro awards Site C contract to Burnaby-based company: BC Hydro said in a press release it's awarded the $70 million contract for all mechanical work related to completing the generating stations and spillways on Site C project to Burnaby-based Mitchell Installations. The company will begin work this fall and finish in 2024. Construction on the controversial project has seen a 1-year delay and is expected to wrap up in 2025.

⚽️ Burnaby's Christine Sinclair to play for gold: Captain Sinclair and the Canadian women's soccer team have advanced to the gold medal game after defeating the US women's team 1-0 on Monday. The gold medal game will take place on Friday against Sweden.
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Dr Baldev Sanghera will be taking part in Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen Ride or Walk 2 Serve event. 📷 Supplied
Burnaby doctor takes on 100km bike ride for Guru Nanak's Free Kitchen
Dr Baldev Sanghera will ride to raise funds for GNFK's community food programs

A Burnaby doctor is stepping away from his clinic this weekend and hitting the road to participate in a 100km bike ride from Mission to Surrey for a good cause.

Dr Baldev Sanghera, the medical director of the Edmonds Urgent and Primary Care Centre and a member of the South Asian COVID Taskforce, will be taking part in the Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen (GNFK) Ride or Walk 2 Serve charity event on Sunday, August 8.

The local Sikh-run volunteer organization is hosting the event to raise funds in order to help feed vulnerable and unhoused residents across Metro Vancouver—and to collect donations for its future permanent headquarters, to continue its langar food service in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Sanghera, who volunteers for GNFK with his family, told Burnaby Beacon the 100km ride is a first for him. He’ll be joined by his team, the Seva Spinners.

“Usually I can ride 25km. I can probably push it to ride 50km, but 100km is totally out of my comfort zone,” he said.

“So why not push myself out of my comfort zone and my team and also inspire other people?”

Since 2006, GNFK has served communities around Metro Vancouver with langar seva. In Sikhism, langar is a community kitchen where free vegetarian Indian meals are cooked and served at gurdwaras (Sikh temples). The practice was started by Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first Sikh guru, in 1481. The word seva translates to selfless service, which is a pillar in the Sikh faith.

In every gurdwara, you’ll find a langar hall where people from all walks of life are welcome to have a free meal prepared by volunteers doing seva.

“The people of GNFK, they took it upon themselves based on Guru Nanak’s teachings to reach out and provide food. That’s what we Sikhs do, we feed people, we care about people. So this is impacting those folks’ health by providing them with a nice healthy, balanced meal at least 2 days a week,” said Sanghera, adding that GNFK also works to support a variety of local food programs, shelters, and charities including the Burnaby Food Hub.

“There is a medical angle to this,” he added. “The social determinants of health, like access to food, water, security, housing, impacts about 70-80% of our health outcomes. So the people living in the DTES, … their access to healthy food is quite poor. And you’ve got poor access to adequate housing, adequate safety, security, all of that stuff is not there.”

Sanghera hopes Ride or Walk 2 Serve will inspire others to get involved with initiatives that positively impact their communities.

“It brings attention to what the organization is trying to do, but also what we’re trying to do is highlight the need out there,” he said.

“We often neglect and look down to see the people are living amongst us and not getting all that they need to be able to flourish, to survive. And we need to get to a point in society where we all have everybody not just surviving but thriving, and we can do that together.”

Those wanting to make a pledge to support the Seva Spinners and other participants can do so here.

—By Simran Singh


  • 243 new cases (highest since May 29). Total 149,889
  • 0 new deaths. Total 1,771
  • 1,231 active cases (+176). 47 people in hospital (-4), 16 in ICU (-4)
  • Rolling 7-day average of new cases up to 149 (+18).
  • 81.1% of people 12+ have received their 1st vaccine dose (+0.1%).
  • 64.9% of people 12+ have received their 2nd vaccine dose (+0.8%).
  • 56 new cases in Fraser Health (23% of BC).
  • 277 active cases in Fraser Health (+36).

📽️ Outdoor movies and concerts return to Burnaby - The city is putting on several outdoor, free, family-friendly events at popular areas like Confederation Park and Civic Square outside the Metrotown library. Click here for the full line-up and don't forget your picnic blanket or foldable chair!

🏘️ Bainbridge neighbourhood plan - Do you live in Bainbridge and have thoughts on where you want the community to go? Take this survey to give your feedback on the City of Burnaby's new community plan for the area.

🥘 Indo-African comfort food - The best kind of fusion: a place where you can get samosas and mogo at the same time. Visit Safari Snack House at 5121 Canada Way for family-owned deliciousness. We've got our eyes on those pili-pili potato wedges for sure 😍.
Rainbow reflections at Station Square. 📷 Sergei Sviridov / Submitted
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