Every year in the province of BC, people and property are threatened by wildfires. Many of these fires occur in areas called the urban interface zone where homes, cabins and subdivisions are built into the forest landscape. Individual property owners can and should help reduce the risk of wildfire affecting their properties.
The FireSmart program is a national program designed to reduce interface fire risk to communities. In BC, the FireSmart program is administered by the Wildfire Management Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. In 2019, the CSRD was a successful recipient of a $100,000 grant from the Union of BC Municipalities' Community Resiliency Fund to spend on a region-wide wildfire threat mitigation and education campaign.
The money will be largely spent on local projects through the promotion of FireSmart principles, which include: conducting hazard assessments of homes and properties, offering advice on ways to reduce fire risks, and considering FireSmart standards when developing properties to reduce flammability.
The current grant is for this year only, the CSRD is hoping subsequent grants will allow for a longer-term, sustainable program.
How can we help you FireSmart your property?
Through our FireSmart initiative, the CSRD is committed to providing homeowners and communities, the information they need to reduce wildfire risk. This resource page is designed to provide you with documents and videos that should:
- Allow you to familiarize yourself with factors that reduce risk,
- Provide information that focuses on ‘Zone 1’ improvements around your home,
- Help you self-assess your individual risk,
- Provide simple steps you can take to reduce your risk in the short and long term,
- Should your community (neighborhood) be interested in becoming FireSmart recognized, we have information to help you get started.
The CSRD has prepared articles to provide information for residents on FireSmart and the local program.
FireSmart Begins at Home: This links to a great manual that every property owner in the CSRD should read.
FireSmart Assessment Guide: This handy guide allows you to self assess your own level of FireSmart preparedness and risk.
Exterior Home Sprinklers and Structure Protection Fact Sheet: This is a document that helps with setting up and understanding how you can protect your home with some basic equipment in the event of a wildfire near you.
FireSmart and Your Home Video: Here is a great three-minute video that demonstrates applying FireSmart principles to your home.
FireSmart Landscaping Guide: If you are looking to garden, check here for some ideas.
It is important to remember that home owners are responsible for the safety and security of their own properties. You need to take action to protect yourself from the threat of wildfire.
Become a FireSmart Recognized Community
We all know fires don't recognize borders, so while you may take steps to protect your property, it is even better if your neighbourhood does so as a group.That's where the FireSmart Recognized Community comes in.
Do you want to be a Community Champion and inspire your neighbors to get national recognition? Find out more about FireSmart Community Recognition here.
Knowledge is power. The intent of the assessment program is to educate residents on their individual property and community risk and provide tools to reduce it. Even minor fixes and changes in the Zone 1 (10 Meters around your home) can make a significant impact on your risk and score. The BC Firesmart and FireSmart Canada website have great resources to help with what can seem to be an overwhelming task, especially if you have a larger property that is densely populated with trees.
Remember, FireSmart is not a one-time project and should be part of your ongoing regular maintenance planned throughout the year. Doing little things now and then continuing to work through higher risk items means, in the long run, you will be taking great steps to reduce your risk. Take action now and don’t wait until you are threatened by wildfire. We all have a responsibility to be FireSmart.
A lot of positive changes can be done simply by cleaning up debris piles and trimming tree branches. The CSRD offers free drop off at regional waste transfer sites for branches, grass, etc.
Bigger tasks like full tree removal and physical changes such as roofing can be much more expensive and should be considered when that is appropriate for you to replace them. There may be a rebate available for up to $500 for expenses incurred to FireSmart your home.
Splitting costs such as bins and tree trimmers with neighbors is a great way to FireSmart your home in a more cost-effective way. Focus on the 10 metre perimeter that surrounds your home first, then start working your way further out. The biggest changes you can make are often right next to your home. Many of these take time and thought, rather than cash!
Congratulations to you on having a FireSmart property. We encourage you to keep up the good work throughout the year!
That being said, FireSmart diligence is a year-round activity and even a low-risk property can become high risk once leaves or needles drop from trees.
Windstorms and tree shedding can create pockets of debris in corners and areas of your home that can become major hazards in a wildfire event. Embers from large fires can travel great distances and start fires miles away, so even the most prepared people can still be affected by a fire.
Have a truck? Or a saw? You could reduce your own risk by helping your neighbours. Offer to take away branches, leaves and yard debris for a neighbour in need of some help.
For many people this is a reality of life. By doing the small things around your home you can still reduce risk.
Specific to combustible roofing or decking, until it is appropriate to replace that, you may want to consider your own fire suppression system that includes hoses, water tanks, pumps and sprinklers. In the event of a wildfire, setting up sprinklers on your roof or having hoses in high-risk area with access to water can make a considerable difference to your risk. So while you may be at a higher risk, there are definitely things you can still do to reduce it. Having water full water totes and pumps, for example, can give you access to water in the event of a power outage.
Understanding your risk can go a long way to coming up with effective solutions to reduce it without major home changes or pricey renovations.
Taking an active role in your community to assess and mitigate wildfire risk makes you a champ!
We all have a responsibility to remove fuels in high risk areas, help neighbours who need assistance, or organize volunteer days. This is the spirit of FireSmart. Every community needs volunteers and organizers to help others understand risk and take proactive steps to reduce it. Talking with neighbors, sharing information and helping others will make a difference. Volunteer to organize events and maybe even take a lead role in obtaining FireSmart recognition for your community. Ask us how we can help by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nothing. This information is designed to help you. We don’t report specific property information to insurance companies or other agencies. The CSRD’s FireSmart initiative is an educational and community support program designed to help you reduce your home and community risk. Helping to make people aware of their risk and providing them with information to reduce it will make us all safer in the long run.
The FireSmart BC and FireSmart Canada websites have libraries of information. The BC wildfire service website has information on prevention, fire bans and active fires. Of course, at the CSRD we have compiled a number of important documents for you. We encourage you to follow one or all of our social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The Shuswap Emergency Program also has a Facebook page. The BC Wildfire service can also be followed online here.
Stay informed and stay FireSmart.
Under the FireSmart Community Funding & Supports program, the CSRD can use grant funding to offer a local rebate program to home owners on private land and First Nations land that complete eligible FireSmart activities on their own properties. To be eligible for funding, a rebate program must address the goals of FireSmart and follow the requirements outlined below.
The goal of FireSmart is to encourage home owners to conduct FireSmart practices on their property to reduce damages and minimize the hazards associated with wildfire. These practices should aim to:
- Reduce the potential for an active crown fire to move through private land.
- Reduce the potential for ember transport through private land and structures.
- Create landscape conditions around properties where fire suppression efforts can be effective and safe for responders and resources.
- Treat fuel adjacent and nearby to structures to reduce the probability of ignition from radiant heat, direct flame contact and ember transport.
- Implement measures to structures and assets that reduce the probability of ignition and loss.
Approved applicants (CSRD) are required to use the following requirements:
Rebates are limited to 50 per cent of the total cost of the eligible activities and no more than $500 per property.
Areas of higher wildfire risk, such as neighbourhoods adjacent to the forested edge and/or areas that fall in an overall high to extreme category, should be prioritized for rebates. Current CWPPs or other community plans should be used to decide where to offer a FireSmart rebate program.
To qualify for a rebate, the home owner must:
Have a FireSmart Assessment of their property, conducted by a qualified Local FireSmart Representative, that identifies the property in a moderate, high or extreme category.
Please note: The only acceptable FireSmart assessment forms are the FireSmart Canada Community Recognition Program Wildfire Hazard Assessment form and the FireSmart Home Assessment Score Card, both available from the FireSmart Canada website.
Complete activities that are recommended in the assessment and that are eligible under the FireSmart Community Funding & Supports program, limited to:
- Roofing: remove combustible debris and overhanging branches
- Siding: remove combustible debris, create 15 cm ground-to-siding non-combustible clearance
- Decking: remove all combustible material from under or adjacent to deck, relocate firewood piles
- Landscaping: ensure 1.5 metre horizontal non-combustible surface perimeter along the outer walls of the primary structure, plant low density of fire-resistant plants, remove woody debris, remove flammable plants
- FireSmart Priority Zone 1: remove material that would easily ignite, thin and prune trees, clean up accumulations of fallen branches, remove dry grass and needles
- FireSmart Priority Zone 2: plant deciduous trees, remove standing dead and coarse woody debris, remove unmaintained grasses, ensure flammable shrubs are well spaced, remove low tree branches below two metres from the ground
The approved applicant (CSRD) must assess the FireSmart activities that are conducted by home owners and review costs (e.g. receipts and/or proof of labour) before approving rebates. This can be achieved by the LFR (preferably the same one who carried out the initial assessment) who must verify the work submitted for rebate was completed (ex. by conducting a follow-up site visit).
The LFR completes the CSRD Rebate Application form and submits it to the CSRD FireSmart Coordinator (by email or in person) who will check it over and confirm it is all correct.
The CSRD FireSmart Coordinator sends or drops off the verified Rebate Applications to the CSRD Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP) staff along with any necessary receipts or proof of work.
SEP tracks FireSmart grant financials and submits documents for payment to issue a cheque to homeowner.