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Wildfire mitigation specialist encourages Shuswap residents to take part in FireSmart program

Residents urged to FireSmart

Eight neighbourhoods in the Columbia Shuswap Regional District have completed the FireSmart wildfire mitigation program, and a wildfire mitigation specialist says several more are currently undertaking the process.

Sophie Randall, who is working with the CSRD to organize its FireSmart programming, said the initiative has grown in popularity.

“There's been an uptake in people not only reaching out for the ignition zone assessments, like individual property level visits, but there's a lot of people interested in neighbourhoods and working as a community towards mitigating the risks of wildfires," Randall said.

Interested community members who reach out to the CSRD’s FireSmart team will be put in contact with a local FireSmart representative, or an LFR — a local firefighter who has received FireSmart assessment training.

“The majority of the people that work with us are indeed local firefighters from our fire halls, so they already have a good sense of the hazards," Randall said.

“Then with the FireSmart training…we focus a lot more on wildland fire behaviour. And especially when it gets to what we call the interface level, when fire comes at the level of homes, basically, of structures.”

Randall said the team has worked with local residents organizing a FireSmart effort on their street all the way up to large strata groups representing several hundred people.

CSRD can help with FireSmart clean up

Randall said the FireSmart assessment is a bit of work to organize and complete, but she provided Castanet with a run down of the process.

“We have an LFR that would come and visit and do a walk around with them around their neighbourhoods… do an initial look around at what is at risk, and the work that would be needed,” Randall said.

“We make a few recommendations, we generally encourage them to organize a FireSmart clean-up weekend.”

For neighbourhoods interested in having a clean-up weekend, the CSRD has a few ways it can help. This includes renting large yard waste bins which can be left over long weekends or throughout the week.

"Then they can dispose of all the yard waste there, we can also rent a chipper for [neighbourhoods] to help with chipping branches and getting rid of yard waste," Randall said.

After the initial cleanup, the LFR will come back for a second assessment.

“We have a second visit where the local FireSmart representative walks around and does a much more thorough investigation,” Randall said.

“We follow up with a report which is called the neighbourhood wildfire hazard assessment, then this focuses on all aspects of the type of fuels that are around, the topography also…as well as looking at what the top priority areas that we would encourage the residents to look out for."

Randall said priority areas include critical infrastructure like hydro poles, and making sure an evacuation route is as clear as possible in the event of a wildfire.

She noted vegetation is also important to consider.

“There's still a lot of education to be done around FireSmart,” Randall said. “It's not just about cutting trees down, we're looking really at your home, the immediate area of your home, and then working on areas around it as well.”

How to take part

Randall wants to encourage residents to get in touch with FireSmart BC to help mitigate the danger of wildfires in their community.

“We'll get a local FireSmart representative to help you, and really focus on what's a priority around your home or around your neighbourhood," she said.

For more information, residents can visit the FireSmart BC website or send an email to the CSRD FireSmart team at [email protected].

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