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qathet Regional District finance committee reviews FireSmart program

Regional directors will consider recommendation to extend program
PROVIDING ASSISTANCE: qathet Regional District’s finance committee is recommending that the regional board apply again for funding to administer the FireSmart program, which helps homeowners improve their chances of maintaining their property in the case of incidents such as wildfires.

qathet Regional District’s (qRD) finance committee is recommending that the regional board apply for funding to extend the regional district’s FireSmart program.

At the September 7 finance committee meeting, directors considered a recommendation to apply to Union of British Columbia Municipalities for $80,000 to meet proposed activities for the 2022 FireSmart program, including continued public education, residential property assessments, homeowner rebates and fire departments’ structure protection and interagency training.

Regional district manager of emergency services Ryan Thoms said there has been a tremendous amount of interest in the program this year.

“There have been a lot of successes, even with the ongoing challenges with the pandemic,” said Thoms. “We are looking to increase our budget in the grant so we can keep growing the program.”

Electoral Area E director Andrew Fall said he thinks the program is great and he’s glad to see it growing. He said coordinator Marc Albert had visited Lasqueti Island and there was a lot of interest in the program.

“People are breathing a bit of a sigh of relief now but during the summer, people really started thinking about the need for this,” said Fall. “It’s a really good program for people to look at what they can do. Even if they only do some of the things, they can reduce the overall risk.”

Committee chair and city director George Doubt said looking at the interior of the province particularly, FireSmart has proven to be an invaluable program in certain areas. He said he owned a house in Logan Lake until recently and the community had been taking advantage of the FireSmart program for a long time, creating fire breaks, removing forest floor debris and putting in place a program with the volunteer fire department, where they went around and provided sprinklers for roofs if anyone wanted them.

“During the evacuation alert, when the fire was right at the back fences, they actually had 22 fire trucks on loan from services from around the province,” said Doubt. “They set up a connection of fire hoses around the perimeter of the community and the result was no structures were lost. I think that is due to the FireSmart initiative.

“One of the houses that was saved was the house that belonged to me and the people who were there told me the fire burned up to the back fence and stopped there. There’s a huge value to FireSmart and we should keep going.”

Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick said she had a FireSmart analysis done a few weeks ago and it’s worthwhile.

“The things that Marc points out, we hadn’t thought about,” said McCormick. “It was mainly the interface between the ground and the house. I highly recommend being part of this program and continuing to seek funding to make it happen.”

In addition to applying for funding, the committee recommended that the regional board carry out the 2022 FireSmart program collaboratively with Tla’amin Nation and City of Powell River, and that the regional district receive and manage the grant funding on behalf of Tla’amin and the city.