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Residents encouraged to protect their homes from wildfire

Andrew Hunsberger, urban forest health technician with the City of Kelowna (right), and fire and life safety educator Rick Euper explain what residents can do to protect their homes from wildfire. - Wade Paterson/Capital News
Andrew Hunsberger, urban forest health technician with the City of Kelowna (right), and fire and life safety educator Rick Euper explain what residents can do to protect their homes from wildfire.
— image credit: Wade Paterson/Capital News

The caretaker's home at the top of Knox Mountain Park should be in good shape if a wildfire starts in the region.

This past spring, City of Kelowna and Kelowna Fire Department crews applied FireSmart standards to protect the home and nearby structures.

The work has reduced the odds of the home incurring fire damage and is now being used by the city to demonstrate how residents living near forested regions can protect their homes from wildfire.

"We've put what we've done to this house and the surrounding area onto (an) information board so that people, as they come up, can actually see what has been done," said Rick Euper, fire and life safety educator with the Kelowna Fire Department.

Euper said the FireSmart guidelines divide a property into three priority zones. The first priority includes the house and 10 metres that surround it.

"We've put one metre of rock around the base, we've also cleared away any brush that would be a hazard (and) screened any openings to the building," said Euper.

Andrew Hunsberger, urban forest health technician with the City of Kelowna, explained zone two focuses on the area 10 to 30 metres from the home and zone three includes the rest of the property up to 100 metres from any structures.

"We'd like to (see) some thinning of the forest, some pruning," said Hunsberger.

"The idea is, if there is a fire, to keep the fire on the ground (and) keep it at a low-intensity surface fire that's not going to get up into the trees."

Fire officials have already held a meeting with residents living in the Gallagher's Canyon region, and they're hoping to engage with McKinley Landing and neighbouring Clifton Road residents, as well as the Quail Ridge community.

"The meeting consists of getting people together and trying to get somebody in that community to take charge," said Euper.

FireSmart Canada developed a community recognition program in 2012 to identify neighbourhoods that have taken steps to protect their homes.

"We'll recognize them as a FireSmart community; they'll get a sign for their community to proudly display," said Kelly Johnston, executive director with FireSmart.

"The homes are the most vulnerable point, that's what makes all of these fires a disaster in these areas…if the homes can't burn, it's not really a disaster."

Euper said the fire department responds to approximately 50 complaints annually regarding forest fuels on neighbouring properties.

"We'll go and take a look at it and we'll work with that neighbour to get it cleaned up."

He noted new developments in interface areas are required to do mitigation work before building can proceed.

"(It's) really great that happens because it assures that before the neighbourhood goes in (and) the houses go up, that fuel mitigation work is taken care of by the developer," said Hunsberger.

According to Hunsberger, mitigation work is best done in the fall, winter or spring.

For more information about FireSmart, visit bcwildfire.ca/prevention/firesmart.htm.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Twitter: @PatersonWade

 

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