City of Powell River Council applying for FireSmart grant

Program helps householders to improve their properties against wildfires

City of Powell River Council has endorsed an application for funding for the FireSmart program, which helps householders make improvements to their properties to lessen the prospect of damage from wildfires.

At the October 15 city council meeting, councillors voted to apply to Union of British Columbia Municipalities for FireSmart funding and supports, and to carry out the 2021 regional FireSmart program collaboratively with Tla’amin Nation and qathet Regional District (qRD). Council also voted that qRD receive and manage the grant funding on behalf of the city and provide overall grant management for this project.

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Councillor Maggie Hathaway, council’s portfolio holder for emergency services and safety, said FireSmart is a program where qRD has an employee who facilitates the program. She said people can get advice on making their properties fire resistant. She said there is funding of $500 attached so householders can get some money to make their properties more fire safe.

“I do know there are a lot of people in Wildwood who have taken advantage,” said Hathaway. “It’s a good program and if we ever have a wildfire, we’ll have a bit of resilience. I’m very much in favour of this program.

Ryan Thoms, qRD manager of emergency services, made a presentation to the October 13 city committee of the whole meeting, outlining the program.

In a report to the committee, Thoms stated that FireSmart is the term used to describe public education principles developed to enable property owners to make informed decisions about their home and property, including building materials, maintenance and landscaping decisions, to improve public safety as well as increasing individual and neighbourhood resiliency to damage from wildland urban interface fires.

Thoms stated that beginning in 2017, the regional emergency preparedness service has developed a regional FireSmart program to develop and deliver wildfire education throughout the region, including Tla’amin, the city and qRD electoral areas. He further stated that provincial funding for FireSmart education extends beyond just public education and also includes education and interagency training for local fire departments, as well as assessment and rebates for residential property owners who make FireSmart improvements to their homes and properties.

“The 2020 regional FireSmart program is still ongoing with anticipated wrap-up in December,” stated Thoms. “The program has once again been very well received throughout the region. During the spring and early summer, the FireSmart program was particularly busy, offering assessments and advice for people looking to use their time at home to improve the fire resiliency on their properties.

“The pandemic did result in postponement of plans to begin FireSmart training and assessments on Lasqueti Island, as well as plans to work with Tla’amin Nation staff on demonstration projects. These projects will be put forward to pursue post-pandemic.”

Thoms stated that several initiatives were fulfilled in 2020. This included delivering approximately 55 property assessments, at the owners’ requests, throughout the region for private residents, to help them make FireSmart choices for their homes and properties. The program offered rebates of up to $500 for residents who performed FireSmart improvements on their properties. To date, more than $8,000 in rebates have been issued, stated Thoms.

The program has also delivered interagency training and structure protection unit training at seven fire halls throughout the region for how to operate in challenging wildland urban interface fire scenarios.

Thoms stated for 2021, the regional emergency preparedness service proposes to continue delivering the same FireSmart initiatives that have been successful in 2020, with emphasis on continuing to offer free property assessments, rebates, public education sessions and fire department interface and structure protection training.

The regional emergency preparedness service intends to submit a funding request to Union of British Columbia Municipalities for $68,000 to meet proposed activities for the 2021 FireSmart program.

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