One Okanagan city is going all out to get residents' property wildfire resilient - InfoNews

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One Okanagan city is going all out to get residents' property wildfire resilient

May was a typical wildfire season in the region with just 13 fires reported.
June 10, 2019 - 6:30 PM

WEST KELOWNA - Okanagan residents are on alert. It’s the season for fire and smoke, and the recently released provincial wildfire outlook diminished the faint hope that this year may buck the trend.

The report notes that above-average temperatures and less-than-normal rainfall is expected across B.C. That in conjunction with “significantly lower-than-average” snowpack levels, could amount to another smoky summer.

“Although the number of ignitions across the province will strongly depend on the number of lightning strikes, fuel and weather conditions are indicating a busier-than-normal season,” the report states.

The seasonal outlook was assessed by meteorologists and fire behaviour specialists taking into account a variety of factors.

While this year’s conditions are what they are, there’s something to be said for being ready for the worst — something West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund has been preaching for a while.

“We’ve prepared for a wildfire season in terms of training and equipment,” said Brolund.

“But our focus from last year was updating the community wildfire protection plan which we did.”

Updating the plan allowed the city to qualify for funding needed to do mitigation work. Already they’ve received $100,000 toward that aim.

That means, once the fire-season is over, 60 sites on publicly owned or Crown land are going to get a significant clean-up.

“They’re predominantly areas where there are southern facing slopes and areas that are heavily covered, or areas we’ve mitigated before and need to go again,” said Brolund, adding they’re mostly around Powers Creek, Ian Lamont park, by Mount Boucherie.

How that mitigation work is completed may bring its own share of smoky skies.

“We’re always looking for most effective way to do the mitigation,” he said. “If it has to be done by hand then dragged out of the forest and moved away… doing all that work by hand could cost $7,500 per hectare.”

On the other hand, a prescribed burn could do exponentially more for the same amount of money.

For private land, the city is taking a different tack.

“We’ve offered to pay people who take debris to the landfill for mitigation activities,” said Brolund.

“I don’t think it’s fair to pay for doing work that benefits the community.”

West Kelowna is also offering 20 $500 grants, for FireSmart activities, including yard work, replacing shake roofs, removing cedar hedges and replacing them with fire resistant plant life.

“That’s all new this year,” he said.

“We’re trying to do everything we can do to make people’s jobs easier on private land. We can’t do the work, but there are ways we can smooth out the process and make it easier.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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