Planning for the worst as wildfire season gears up

City wants public to be aware of wildfire risks, prepare homes and properties for the worst.

While the city of Cranbrook is working on reducing wildfire risk within municipal boundaries, homeowners also should take some responsibility in reducing potential hazards.

City staff is advising residents to understand the risks and be prepared in case a wildfire sparks up either inside or outside city limits. Homes that do not address potential hazards pose a risk not only to one particular structure, but to the neighbourhood and responding emergency services.

Fire and Emergency Services is pushing the concept of a fire-adapted community, which holds that proper community-wide preparation combined with adequate landscape-scale hazard mitigation, human populations and infrastructure can withstand a wildfire.

A fire-adapted community relies on partnerships between agencies, the public, and all levels of government, with each accepting responsibilities for their part.

When considering the concept of a fire adapted community, the public should be aware of:

• what to expect from emergency responders in the first 24 hours of a fire.

• understand how to create and maintain a fuel free area.

• proper landscaping and plant selection.

• placement of heat sources near the home (wood piles, sheds).

• thinning trees and ladder fuels around the home.

• understanding ember danger

• having a personal and family preparedness plan.

Homeowners should also brush up on some preparedness concepts that include:

Defensible space — a space between a building and the wild land area that surrounds it to create a buffer. Zone 1 extends 30 feet from the building, Zone 2 extends 30-100 feet.

Embers — Windblown embers can be a huge danger during wildfire events, as most structures aren’t destroyed by direct flames, but are rather ignited through embers. Embers can precede a wildfire front and be blown over long distances, Embers that land on roofs can go undetected for some times, and in some cases, ignite a structure and threaten a neighbourhood.

Hardening your Home — A conceptual plan that protects a home through the actual building materials of the roofs, eaves, vents, decks, windows and other aspects.

Home Ignition Zone — another concept plan that puts a home in the context of the surrounding landscape features. In a high hazard area, the zone can be up to 200 feet, focusing on mitigating wildfire risks within that area. For more information on fireproofing your home and property, visit www.firesmartcanada.ca.

While the city and homeowners can do their part to reduce wildfire risk within the city boundaries, it is the responsibility of the province to mitigate those risks outside city limits in areas such as the community forest.

According to a city report, Cranbrook is rated in the highest community wildfire risk category in the province.

In order to reduce that risk, a five-kilometre treatment areas would need to be established, encompassing 50,000 hectares. At $7,000-$9,000 a hectare, that isn’t financially feasible, as the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) currently doles out $5 million per year for the entire province.