Crews were busy cleaning up in the Black Bear area on the weekend. Photo: Don Mortimer

Rossland’s FireSmart program continues to grow

Eight neighbourhoods in Rossland now have some level of Firesmart participation

With summer heating up, Rossland’s Black Bear neighbourhood residents are again working hard to reduce the wildfire hazard in the forest beside their homes.

The neighbourhood FireSmart board co-ordinated a professional chainsaw crew to thin and prune a strip of hazardous forest vegetation along the south perimeter of their neighbourhood. The following morning 20 people pulled on work gloves and tackled the task of dragging out and piling those trees and branches.

The eight large piles will be picked up by Rossland city operations work crews using a loader and dump truck and moved to Rossland’s new FireSmart debris disposal Hügelkultur composting site near Centennial Park.

“We’ve got a great crew of neighbours and it was lots of fun and quite rewarding to see what can be accomplished in fairly short order — we worked for about 2.5 hours and the results were impressive with so many people helping,” says Anthony Bell, head of Black Bear’s FireSmart board and one of the event organizers.

Bell noted that neighbourhood interest has been strong from the start of the FireSmart Communities Program which launched in Black Bear in 2017 with a FireSmart awareness workshop that provided Black Bear residents with information on the wildfire hazard present at their forest edge neighbourhood.

“We’re essentially extending a perimeter strip of FireSmart forest that we started last year,” he says. “We’ve got some other pockets of hazardous vegetation that we’ll be tackling next year.”

Black Bear is entering is now in its third year of participation in Rossland’s FireSmart Communities Program, run by FireSmart co-ordinator Don Mortimer.

“This program is actually run by the residents themselves, taking priority actions on simple steps to reduce the wildfire hazard on their homes and in their yards — they work with a fire professional like myself who recommends specific actions and gets them started,” says Mortimer. “Progressively, by 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.

“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 2019. In addition, Rossland has five new neighbourhoods participating — Earl-Davis, Kirkup, Victoria, Planer and Red Mountain — so we’re on track to have eight neighbourhoods recognized by the program in 2019. Rossland is a national leader within this program.”

Mortimer, a national facilitator with FireSmart Canada and one of the developers of the FireSmart Communities Program, says the program is beginning to gain momentum in B.C., with the provincial government increasing the funding available to municipalities and regional districts for wildfire hazard mitigation. The 2019 program made up to $100,000 available for local FireSmart initiatives, up from $10,000 in 2018.

“The fire seasons of 2017 and 2018 really focused the attention of rural community residents and their fire officials on the potential for wildfire disasters in their communities,” he says. “With the provincial support available there’s really no excuse for not moving to implement FireSmart principles in every rural community — it’s simple and relatively inexpensive to accomplish the work, especially at the private property/backyard level and that’s where the most meaningful hazard reduction is accomplished.”

Mortimer advises all residents to get a free copy of the BC FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual — available at various locations — online at FireSmart BC, city hall, fire departments and often at your insurance brokerage.

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Crews were busy cleaning up in the Black Bear area on the weekend. Photo: Don Mortimer

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