Every year in the province of BC, people and property are threatened by wildland fires. 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.
FireSmart Begins at Home: This is 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.
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 email@example.com.
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.