From left: Curtis Cerovec, George Peck, Christine Andison, Krista Ford, Anthony Bell (Black Bear community champion), Oliver Mamon, Ivan Cerovec, Oliver Bell, Don Smith and Don Mortimer, Rossland local FireSmart representative.

From left: Curtis Cerovec, George Peck, Christine Andison, Krista Ford, Anthony Bell (Black Bear community champion), Oliver Mamon, Ivan Cerovec, Oliver Bell, Don Smith and Don Mortimer, Rossland local FireSmart representative.

Rossland neighbourhoods clear forest of fuel

FireSmart work can be very effective to protecting your home, says coordinator

As the summer moves into hotter and drier days, residents of Rossland’s Black Bear neighbourhood were working hard last week to reduce the wildfire hazard in the forest beside their homes.

The neighbourhood FireSmart board coordinated a professional chainsaw crew to thin and prune a strip of hazardous forest vegetation along the south perimeter of their neighbourhood. On Sunday morning 16 people pulled on work gloves and tackled the task of dragging out and piling those trees and branches.

The pile will be picked up by Rossland city operations work crews using a loader and dump truck and moved to a nearby hügelkultur composting site at Rossland’s Moon Gravity Farm.

“It was a lot of fun actually — we worked for about 3½ hours, and it goes quickly with so many people helping,” said Anthony Bell, head of Black Bear’s FireSmart board. “It’s amazing what we accomplished — a pretty impressive volume of highly combustible forest debris was dragged out and piled and now one of the priority wildfire hazards that our neighbourhood had identified has been eliminated.

“We all agree that we should have done this years ago.”

Black Bear is entering its second year of participation in Rossland’s FireSmart communities program, run by FireSmart coordinator Don Mortimer.

“[B]y staging annual FireSmart events like Sunday’s fuel reduction session at Black Bear, the neighbourhood reduces wildfire risk and ultimately achieves national recognition under the FireSmart communities program,” Mortimer said. “Rossland had three neighbourhoods recognized by the FireSmart communities program last year – Black Bear, Iron Colt and McLeod East. All three are renewing their recognition status within the program in 2018.

“We’re just starting work now with another four or five Rossland neighbourhoods that have been waiting to get started this year.”

Mortimer says the 2017 wildfire season got a lot of people thinking about what they could do to reduce the wildfire hazard to their homes. He says when they learn how easily the majority of wildfire hazards on their property can be mitigated, homeowners are surprised, relieved and motivated to get working.

“It’s important for people to acknowledge that if we’re going to live near forests, you’re going to live near wildfires, and a lot more of them going forward,” he says. “It’s equally important for residents of forest interface neighbourhoods to understand that wildfires can occur in the forest right beside your FireSmart home and yard — surprisingly close in fact — without disastrous consequences.”

Mortimer advises all residents to get a free copy of the BC FireSmart homeowner’s manual, which can be found at various locations, including online, and use the scorecard to evaluate your wildfire risk and start implementing the priority FireSmart wildfire hazard mitigation on your home and yard.

Mortimer, one of the developers of the national FireSmart communities program, says Rossland is currently the national leader, with three neighbourhoods recognized within the city. Other Kootenay communities like Queens Bay, Kaslo, Robson, Fernie and others are all catching up.

“I’ve got several growlers of Rossland Brewing Company ale offered to any Canadian municipality that can meet or beat Rossland’s lead – so the challenge is on,” he jokes.

Anyone with questions or interest in the Rossland FireSmart communities program can contact Mortimer at dmortimer@telus.net.