Regional funds available for strategic wildfire prevention in Central Okanagan

Removing fuel, planning for wildfire among the initiatives available for funding

With blazes in Fintry, Falkland, Kelowna and West Kelowna burned into the collective memory of local residents, communities are being urged to take action against wildfires.

On Thursday, the provincial government announced an additional $5 million for the strategic wildfire prevention initiative.

“The top priority is safeguarding British Columbians,” said Forests Minister Steve Thomson during a press conference at the Vernon Fire Zone office in the Commonage.

The new funding will focus on prescription and fuel treatment projects in communities facing higher-than-average wildfire risks.

“There’s a huge need,” said Catherine Lord, Vernon councillor, of wildlands adjacent to residential subdivisions.

The City of Vernon is already receiving assistance through the previous program mandate, but fire chief Keith Green admits there are challenges when it comes to reducing fuel load such as trees and grass.

“We’re dealing with private landowners who we hope will use Fire Smart principles,” he said.

In the past, the District of Lake Country has done widespread fuel modification near the Lakes subdivision.

Victoria introduced the strategic wildfire prevention initiative in 2004. Since then, the program provided $62 million to help municipalities, regional districts and First Nations reduce wildfire risks.

As of Dec. 31, 2014, 279 wildfire protection plans have been completed by local governments and First Nations across the province. Another 33 are still moving ahead.

Besides removing fuel, the funding allows jurisdictions to proceed with planning.

“Communities can look at zoning and access for emergency vehicles,” said Rhona Martin, with the Union of B.C. Municipalities and a Columbia-Shuswap Regional District director.

Another player in the program is the First Nations Emergency Services Society.

“Our society’s programs focus on fire prevention and forest fuel management, including Fire Smart projects,” said president Ed Mountain.

“Prevention is key to reducing wildfire risks and enhancing safety in the wildland-urban interface.”

Current weather conditions have some wondering if wildfires will be a significant issue this year.

“This winter was drier than normal and the possibility of fire could be high this summer,” said Lord.

Thomson is unwilling to predict what the upcoming wildfire season could bring.

“We’re ready but so much of it is weather dependant,” he said, adding that the $5 million funding announcement is a critical step towards being prepared.

“We all recognize the risk communities face. We need to do what we can to help communities reduce the interface risk.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

RCMP, firefighters rally in support for health care workers in Kelowna

Pandosy Street was packed with supporters Saturday night

Kelowna RCMP plan mini parade past KGH to recognize health care workers

Kelowna officers will flash lights and sounds both Saturday and Sunday night

Perry and Stanley awarded top UBC Okanagan rookies

The volleyball star and soccer star won the prize over Heat’s virtual awards banquet

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

Second Vernon-area high school exposed to COVID-19

Kalamalka Secondary School staff, students urged to self-isolate if showing symptoms

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

No hesitation; two bystanders assist in South Okanagan house fire rescue

“I’d do it for anybody,” says Penticton man after assisting in house fire rescue

WATCH: Okanagan producer treats neighbours to live music from safe distance

Neighbours practiced social distancing as Jeff Johnson played songs from his front steps

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

Okanagan woman baking for those in need amid COVID-19

Vernon’s Crystal Hedlund launched a GoFundMe page to generate funds for baking materials

Okanagan distillery hands out thousands of sanitizer bottles, needs help in COVID-19 fight

Okanagan Springs is donating hand sanitizer to help fill COVID-induced shortages

Most Read