Sparking Action for FireSmart Communities

This morning’s ‘Sparking Action for FireSmart Communities’ clinic identified 2015 as part of the current trend of increasingly active and damaging fire seasons and provided delegates with important information on how to build wildfire-resilient communities.

This year’s wildfire season started early in BC and has seen more than 1,800 fires, including 24 interface fires of notes.  Nearly 300,000 hectares have burned to date this year. Although comparable to the 2014 season, more fires occurred in the south of the province and more structures were destroyed this year.

Clinic panellists included BC Wildlife Service’s Lyle Gawalko and FireSmart Canada’s Kelly Johnston who provided a vividly clear message: FireSmart communities can reduce wildfire risks and decrease community and personal losses from wildfires.

“We’ll always have wildfires,” said Gawalko, “because we have lightening, and we have forests and grasslands.” Climate change and the Mountain pine beetle are contributing causes, but so is increasing development in the wildland-urban interface, where the forest meets the community.

Specific examples of successful FireSmart actions were provided by the Anarchist Mountain community’s FireSmart Coordinator Denis Thomson and District of Logan Lake Mayor Robin Smith. They demonstrated how activities at the local government level and by community members can reduce wildfire risk on their own properties and neighbourhoods.

The District of Logan Lake, a small community completely surrounded by forests, developed the first Community Wildfire Protection Plan in the province. For the next ten years they worked their plan to the fullest, said Mayor Smith.

The clinic highlighted the resources available to support local governments, First Nations and community and resident groups to become FireSmart.  This includes funding under the existing Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative and the newly announced 2016 SWPI FireSmart Grant Program.  All program and application materials are available on UBCM’s website.

The new program seeks to dramatically increase the number of FireSmart-recognized communities in B.C. There are 15 certified communities in Canada, while 1,500 U.S. communities have been certified under the similar FireWise program.

“Everyone is responsible for wildfire prevention,” said Johnston. “We need to encourage private home owners and land owners to take responsibility for reducing their risk.”

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