DOI council commits to wildfire emergency preparedness
By Stephanie Stevens
Hot on the heels of recruiting FireSmart champions within local communities, the District of Invermere (DOI) has resolved to go further and commit to the Wildfire Emergency Preparedness Plan (WEPP), as well as oversee rebates to homeowners spending money to FireSmart their properties.
DOI Director of Development Services Rory Hromadnik said he has been working hard with Invermere Volunteer Fire Department chief Jason Roe to put together an emergency wildfire pre-plan, which can also be used to respond to any catastrophic event that may occur.
A grant from the Columbia Basin Trust helped fund the pre-plan, which includes items such as what resources the DOI may need, a budget for supplies as well as zoning the community to ensure all areas are taken care of.
“We have Invermere zoned into 14 sections and have an evacuation plan for each,” said Roe.
At the regular scheduled meeting Oct. 22, DOI council voted in favour of committing to WEPP, which will require development and be incorporated into the prioritized investment strategy within the available capital allotment for emergency services within the 20-year capital plan.
In addition to that commitment, council supported an application for a grant from the Community Resilience Investment program to administer a grant program for homeowners.
Hromadnik said it is the first time there has been a chance for government grants to go to private homeowners for fire prevention improvements.
“We are pretty excited,” he said. “It is $150,000 worth of $500 rebates.” Hromadnik went on to explain the individual grants the DOI would oversee would be for 50% of what a homeowner spends doing eligible improvements, up to $500. The program would be spread out over two years.
Mayor Al Miller made a point of acknowledging the work Hromadnik and Roe have put into the pre-plan already, a sentiment echoed by Coun. Gerry Taft.
Coun. Greg Anderson asked where the number for the rebate came from. “Five hundred dollars is not really a lot, especially if it costs a couple of thousand to do the improvement. Can we up it a little?”
Hromadnik responded the number is mandated by the Community Funding and Support Program for FireSmart activities.
“It is kind of bittersweet,” he said. “It is the first-time government funding has helped with private land, but it is not a lot.”
Anderson added he suspected the amount would increase in future, with this being “a first shot at it.”