How British Columbians can prepare their homes for wildfire season

Apr 27 2020, 10:03 am

Every year, natural wildfire seasons raise concerns for people all over the world, including those living in Europe, Asia, and here in North America. In the last year, 805 wildfires burned just under 21,000 hectares of land in BC.

These events aren’t confined to summer alone. On March 30, 2020, a wildfire broke out less than 20 kilometres from the town of Squamish. Even more recently, on April 15, a fast-moving wildfire sparked on the 13800-block of Squamish Valley Road, leading to a local state of emergency.

The public, businesses, and government bodies can all support wildfire prevention. However, when in a wildfire situation, homeowners have an important role to play in protecting their properties and communities.

The FireSmart concept refers to living with and managing wildfire in your area and on your property. Here’s what that looks like in practice.

Wildfire prevention: A shared responsibility

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Using FireSmart principles can help reduce the risk that wildfires pose to life and properties — even in the most extreme conditions. These disciplines cover seven key areas; they make up the framework for how FireSmart works at home, in the community, and on a provincial level.

  • Education — This involves raising awareness of wildfire risks, and teaching prevention and mitigation techniques to promote long-term behavioural change.
  • Vegetation Management — Managing vegetation on properties in fire-prone areas using science is a key way to mitigate wildfire threats and reduce community vulnerability.
  • Legislation and Planning — The development of policies and legislation related to forestry management practices, integrated land use planning, compliance and enforcement programs, as well as legal orders is key to FireSmart.
  • Development Considerations — When government and local land-use planning is done effectively it can support community wildfire resiliency and infrastructure survivability.
  • Interagency Cooperation – To better support wildfire preparedness, prevention, response, and recovery, collaboration is needed between agencies and across different levels of government.
  • Cross-Training — Firefighters typically specialize in either structural or wildfire areas, but cross-training allows for greater response capabilities and increased community protection.
  • Emergency Planning — Informing communities of how they can be better prepared when responding to and recovering from wildfires can be done when expert and local knowledge is combined.

What you can do as a homeowner

As a BC resident and homeowner, you can mitigate wildfire risks in your community and around your home. By implementing the recommended FireSmart guidelines, you can increase the chance of your home surviving a wildfire event.

Bryan Reid Senior, star of HGTV’s Timber Kings and the founder of Pioneer Log Homes, has seen first-hand how destructive fast-moving wildfires can be. Today, he’s an advocate for wildfire protection and is partnering with FireSmart BC to help educate homeowners about the protective measures they can take.

“There are a lot of practical steps homeowners can take to prepare for wildfire and I am proud to be working with FireSmart BC to help residents learn about what they can do,” says Reid.

His top three FireSmart tips for homeowners include:

  • Do a FireSmart home assessment — Download the FireSmart Homeowners Manual and assess your risk from wildfire. Reid suggests answering the questions in the assessment form to see what changes will make the biggest difference in reducing the risk to your home.
  • Find out if your community is FireSmart Canada recognized — When residents work together, they have a greater chance of limited fire-related damage. You can consult the Recognized FireSmart Community map to see if your community has been listed as FireSmart.
  • Don’t wait. FireSmart your home today — Reid recommends visiting the FireSmart BC website to check out the FireSmart activities you can do while you’re at home.

When you’re aiming to make your home FireSmart, it’s important to consider how your home was built, access, the yard and landscaping, as well as the vegetation and fuels (i.e. if you have oil or gas central heating).

You can explore the range of FireSmart resources here, with tips like making sure trees are spaced at least three metres apart, pruning all branches that are within two metres of the ground, and ensuring that windows are tempered, thermal, or double-paned.

Like many preventative measures, making your home a FireSmart property doesn’t happen overnight. But as social distancing measures continue, we now have the time to work on better protecting our properties for the future.

To get started and achieve your goal of having a FireSmart home, download the FireSmart Homeowners Manual and check out firesmartbc.ca.