The ʔaq̓am community is getting some support from the Columbia Basin Trust, which doled out nearly $1 million in funding to reduce wildfire risks in the region.
The First Nations community near Cranbrook will receive funding for wildfire mitigation efforts such as tree felling, pruning and thinning over 64 hectares of high risk areas where a fire event could threaten a home, critical infrastructure or cultural heritage sites.
The area around ʔaq̓am went through a wildfire scare this past summer when a 400-hectare blaze sparked up in a rural area out by the St. Eugene Mission.
“In September 2017, the ʔaq̓am community experienced a 400-hectare wildfire that threatened property and resulted in the evacuation of 36 on-reserve homes,” said Julie Couse, Director of Lands and Natural Resources. “Approximately 110 individuals were displaced for a period of three days. The Wildfire Mitigation Grant will allow us to treat the highest-priority sites to protect our collective ʔaq̓amnik citizens.”
Other projects include Home Ignition Zone assessments on all on-reserve structures as well as FireSmart activities to become a certified FireSmart community.
In addition to ʔaq̓am, CBT funding has also been awarded to the City of Fernie, City of Castlegar and City of Revelstoke.
Fernie’s portion of the funding will go towards creating a FireSmart demonstration forest where residents will work alongside professionals to thin trees and reduce fire fuels.
“This public participation approach will transfer wildfire risk mitigation awareness, knowledge and skills by showing and involving stakeholders, not just telling them,” said Ted Ruiter, Fire Chief and Director of Fire and Emergency Services. “It will encourage them to use skills gained in building the site to reducing vegetation and fuel hazards near their own homes and neighbourhoods, in ways that retain an attractive forest while respecting wildlife and other habitat requirements.”
Castlegar’s funding will go towards recruiting students from Selkirk College’s Forestry Technology program, who will conduct FireSmart assessments for private property owners. The students will also help out with reducing wildfire risks on municipal lands by creating prescriptions conducting fuel reduction activities.
Revelstoke will be putting an emphasis on public education on FireSmart practices and procedures while also establishing clear guidelines for developers who wish to build in areas with adjacent forests.