The preparation for the coming fire season has already begun.
With the 2021 wildfire season in the West Kootenay section of the Southeast Fire Centre going down as one of the most active on record, an advance move had to be made to ensure people and property are protected in 2022.
That move comes in the form of a successful grant request from Regional District of Central Kootenay to the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ Community Resiliency Investment Program for a total of $603,225, plus a $20,000 contribution from the RDCK.
That money will fuel the RDCK’s Regional FireSmart program this year, creating a “strong and robust” program through the hiring of wildfire mitigation specialists to deliver the FireSmart and Neighbourhood Recognition programs.
In addition, the program will provide wildland firefighter training to RDCK regional fire services.
This marks the sixth year of the RDCK FireSmart program and it comes with new incentives, such as cash rebates up to $500 for homeowners that had home assessments and completed some or all of the work identified.
As well, there will be cash reimbursement up to $3,000 for work done by neighbourhoods — identified through neighbourhood assessments — that are part of the Neighbourhood Recognition Program.
The RDCK will also be hiring a FireSmart coordinator position to augment the work of the wildfire mitigation specialists. Sub-regional FireSmart resilience committees will also be created to manage wildfire fuel mitigation in those regions.
Hot times in West Kootenay
The 2021 fire season in the Southeast Fire Centre torched previous years with an unparalleled amount of fires and hectares burned compared to the 10-year average for the region.
Between April 1 and Sept. 1 this year there were 350 fires that burned 81,155 hectares, compared to the decade-long average (for the same time frame of April 1- Aug. 26) of 249 fires burning 8,427 hectares.
Not only was it busy but it was dangerous as well with numerous evacuation orders and alerts delivered in parts of the regional district.
RDCK FireSmart program
The RDCK FireSmart program will comprise several points in 2022, including:
• the hiring of wildfire mitigation specialists to deliver the FireSmart and Neighbourhood Recognition (NRP) programs;
• offer and administer a FireSmart rebate program to residential properties that have had a FireSmart Assessment and have begun mitigation work outlined in their recommendations;
• offer and administer monetary support to neighbourhoods pursuing neighbourhood recognition;
• coordinate and participate in community FireSmart resiliency committees and fuel management planning tables for landscape-level fuel mitigation;
• provide wildland firefighter training to RDCK regional fire service; and
• provide Indigenous cultural safety and humility training to staff to more effectively partner with Indigenous communities for both wildfire prevention and suppression.
Source: RDCK board of directors agenda