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Wildfire prevention is increasingly required in communities across the Basin. Thanks to a partnership between the Province of BC and the Trust, 16 new wildfire risk reduction projects will get underway, creating over 200 jobs in 14 communities with support of $1.7 million. Fernie is fortunate to receive funding for this Wildfire Risk Reduction project.

The funding comes from the Columbia Basin Economic Recovery Initiative, which is part of the Province of BC’s Crown Land Wildfire Risk Reduction program. The initiative is a partnership between the Province’s Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development; its BC Wildfire Service; and Columbia Basin Trust, which is administering it.

“Our government’s financial support for wildfire risk reduction projects in the Columbia Basin will help mitigate future wildfire threats,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We appreciate Columbia Basin Trust’s assistance in distributing these grants and helping communities protect themselves against wildfires.”

Projects supported through this program will teach people how to prevent wildfires and lessen their effects, managing vegetation/fuel load in fire-prone areas, support the development of community emergency plans using FireSmart principles, and create jobs and provide training and skills development related to wildfire risk reduction. Funding recipients include local governments, First Nations, non-profits, fire departments and post-secondary institutions.

“First and foremost, this program focuses on improving the safety and security of Basin communities, while also creating employment and training opportunities for residents,” said Johnny Strilaeff, President and CEO, Columbia Basin Trust. “We are pleased to partner with the Province of BC and look forward to seeing these projects improve community wildfire resiliency during the summer and in the coming months.”

View all the projects here. To learn more about the program, visit ourtrust.org/wildfire.

Here are a few of the recipients:

Breaking the path of wildfire – Fernie – $127,000
The City of Fernie has been wiped out twice by wildfire, in 1904 and 1908, and has no intention of letting it happen again. To keep the community safer, it will create “shaded fuel breaks” in two areas near the community: on 4.2 hectares near St. Margaret’s Cemetery and 1.6 hectares near Mount Fernie Provincial Park. Eight people will plan and do this work, which includes removing fuel from the forest floor and removing shorter trees. Through these actions, the taller trees that remain will have less chance of catching fire should a wildfire sweep through.

“These treatments will certainly go a long way in mitigating the threat of wildfire and providing our residents with significant protection,” said Ted Ruiter, Director of Fire and Emergency Services with the City of Fernie. “Also, we will be contracting out the necessary work, thus creating jobs in these uncertain times.”

Training will lead to tangible results – Kaslo – $69,000
In Kaslo, up to four people will boost their wildfire-related skills by taking courses like Basic Fire Suppression & Safety and Occupational First Aid Level 1, supported by eight trainers and a crew boss. The team will then put its skills to use while reducing wildfire risk on three hectares in the Kaslo Community Forest—a manual treatment that will include thinning dense understorey trees and removing surface fuel.

“The main goal will be to widen our wildfire corridor in the Kaslo wildland interface to create a defensible space with reduced rates of fire spread and intensity,” said Sabrina Mutterer, Manager of the Kaslo and District Community Forest Society. “Apart from reducing risk to lives, homes and property, the treatment also reduces negative consequences to water resources, soil and ecological recovery. The in-depth training will also provide the crew members with certifications and skills they can use in the future to find employment in a variety of wildland settings.”

Planning for a safer tomorrow – Wilmer – $40,000
In the East Kootenay, the small community of Wilmer will become one step closer to becoming wildfire resilient. On behalf of all residents, the Wilmer Community Club will hire a professional to develop a FireSmart fuel management prescription for three parcels of heavily forested Crown land located downslope of the community.

“The prescription will help the community lessen the risk of high-intensity wildfire, which would pose immediate and significant danger to homes upslope of the areas,” said Pam Meunier, Board Member with the Wilmer Community Club. “The project supports the time required for a qualified professional to develop the prescription, while future treatments resulting from the prescription will also create employment.”

Joining forces to tackle wildfires – Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it (Tobacco Plains Indian Band) – $150,000
If a wildfire were to spark by the Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it First Nation or neighbouring Grasmere, the two locations would have a hard time suppressing it. Now, Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it will address wildfire resiliency through activities such as increasing their local fire service and hiring Band staff and volunteers from both communities. This means that the First Nation will be better able to focus on reducing the risks of wildfires.

“Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡi’it is focused on the continued protection and preservation of our entire traditional territory and when non-Indigenous are willing to step up and be our allies, we are more than welcoming,” said Nasu?kin Heidi Gravelle. “We are all working toward the greater good when it comes to wildfire resiliency.”

Columbia Basin Trust supports the ideas and efforts of the people in the Columbia Basin. To learn more about the Trust’s programs and initiatives, and how it helps deliver social, economic and environmental benefits to the Basin, visit ourtrust.org or call 1.800.505.8998.

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