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Posted: March 26, 2018

Trust delivers wildfire mitigation grants

Twenty communities focus on mitigating wildfire with over $800,000 from Columbia Basin Trust

Wildfire can rapidly destroy homes, communities and lives. To brace against this danger—now becoming more of a risk than ever because of a hotter, drier climate—20 communities are implementing 28 projects that will help them prevent or brace themselves against wildfire. These projects are being supported by $822,406 from Columbia Basin Trust.

“Basin communities are part of forested landscapes, which gives us beautiful scenery and rich ecological values but also hazards to communities such as wildfire,” said Tim Hicks, Columbia Basin Trust Senior Manager, Delivery of Benefits. “Communities are well aware of this risk and came to us for help to both prepare for the possibility of these dangerous situations and to reduce their likelihood. This work aligns with our priority to support community resilience in a changing climate.”

With support from the Trust’s Community Development Program, local governments and First Nation communities are implementing projects focused on educating residents about how they can reduce wildfire risks on their properties, managing wildfire fuels, protecting critical community infrastructure and developing emergency response and evacuation plans.

The Trust will continue to accept applications from local governments and First Nations until June 30.

To see the full list of projects funded, visit ourtrust.org/wildfiregrants.

Here are examples of current local projects.

Close Call

The First Nation community of ʔaq̓am is well aware of the need to prepare for wildfire. “In September 2017, the ʔaq̓am community experienced a 400-hectare wildfire that threatened property and resulted in the evacuation of 36 on-reserve homes,” said Julie Couse, Director of Lands and Natural Resources. “Approximately 110 individuals were displaced for a period of three days. The Wildfire Mitigation Grant will allow us to treat the highest-priority sites to protect our collective ʔaq̓amnik citizens.”

The community will conduct activities like tree felling, pruning and thinning to reduce fuel for wildfires on 63.4 hectares of high-risk areas, where wildfire may pose threats to human safety, structures, critical infrastructure or cultural heritage sites. It will also do Home Ignition Zone assessments on all on-reserve structures, plus do FireSmart activities with the goal of becoming a designated FireSmart-certified community. The Trust is providing $248,000.

For the past couple of years, Fernie residents have helped mitigate wildfire by reducing fuels in overgrown areas in and around their homes. With support from a wildfire mitigation grant from Columbia Basin Trust, the City of Fernie will continue to take several approaches to reducing the risk of wildfire, including creating a demonstration forest.

Creating a Good Example

If you want people to do something, show them how it’s done. That’s one of the City of Fernie’s approaches to reducing the risk of wildfire. It will create a FireSmart demonstration forest, in which residents will work alongside professionals to thin trees and reduce fuels for wildfires, with the $54,576 it is receiving.

“This public participation approach will transfer wildfire risk mitigation awareness, knowledge and skills by showing and involving stakeholders, not just telling them,” said Ted Ruiter, Fire Chief and Director of Fire and Emergency Services. “It will encourage them to use skills gained in building the site to reducing vegetation and fuel hazards near their own homes and neighbourhoods, in ways that retain an attractive forest while respecting wildlife and other habitat requirements.”

Other local projects receiving funding:

City of Kimberley – $13,859 to reduce forest fire fuels on over 100 hectares of land adjacent to housing and the Kimberley Nordic Area.

District of Sparwood – $10,000 to develop emergency response and evacuation plans to ensure the District is able to manage evacuations efficiently in the event of a wildfire or other disaster.

District of Elkford – $25,315 to complete fuel management prescriptions and treatments of the at-risk areas identified in the district’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

District of Invermere – $22,375 to assess the district’s inventory of critical infrastructure and develop an emergency pre-plan to improve the readiness and effectiveness of emergency responders and community.

Regional District of East Kootenay – $8,200 to develop fuel management prescriptions for at-risk areas identified in the Regional District’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Shuswap Indian Band – $32,817 to implement emergency training and certification, develop an emergency response plan and implement FireSmart education to reduce interface wildfire risks and enhance emergency response in the event of a wildfire.

Tobacco Plains Indian Band – $15,000 to support FireSmart home assessments and training activities for members of the Band, enhancing the community’s capacity to respond to wildfires.

Village of Canal Flats – $2,500 to develop fuel management prescriptions for at-risk areas identified in the Village’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Village of Radium Hot Springs – $8,218 to deliver communication and education initiatives, including door-to-door FireSmart assessments, to provide property owners with information about the steps they can take to reduce wildfire hazards on their properties.

The wildfire mitigation grants are just one of the ways the Trust is helping communities adapt to climate change. Learn more at ourtrust.org/environment.

Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit ourtrust.org or call 1-800-505-8998.

Lead image: In September 2017, the ʔaq̓am community experienced a wildfire. It will now be reducing fuel in high-risk areas with support from a wildfire mitigation grant from Columbia Basin Trust. Photos courtesy Columbia Basin Trust

Columbia Basin Trust

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