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Approaches differ on reducing city’s fire risk

City of Salmon Arm council members were more appreciative of a wildfire risk management presentation at the May 24 meeting
Brad Shirley

City of Salmon Arm council members were more appreciative of a wildfire risk management presentation at the May 24 meeting than emergency responders.

Randy Spyksma of Forsite Consultants Ltd. filled councillors in on the province’s Strategic Wildfire Protection Initiative administered by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) and described as a “suite of funding programs managed through the Provincial Fuel Management Working Group.”

Spyksma explained the steps involved in the process – strategic planning, prescriptions and treatments – and outlined what portion of each step would be funded by UBCM.

“Thanks for laying it out; wildfire is one that strikes fear in people,” Coun. Alan Harrison told Spyksma. “I suggest putting it on the agenda for the next meeting and looking at the budget.”

Advocating for collaboration with First Nations and the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Coun. Chad Eliason said he’d also like forestry companies to be involved in the third phase.

“We will see a reduction in the annual allowable cut, so forest companies will be looking for fibre,” he said. “If we do the two together, we help prevent wildfires and they get fibre.”

But Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley later shared his not-so-rosy take on the proposal.

“This is not a new program; the CSRD and City of Salmon Arm have had discussions involving this initiative for some time,” he said.

“We live in a wildland urban interface fire area having approximately 14,000 acres of Crown forest land bordering the City of Salmon Arm alone. Crown land being the key word.”

Instead of paying out thousands to reduce fuel load on Crown land, Shirley favours mobile sprinkler units that can be set up on structures, greatly reducing the chance of fire occurring on and around them.

“These units have proven to be very effective and are becoming more and more the tool of choice for wild land urban-interface fires,” he says, noting several fire departments throughout the province have also acquired them and home kits are now available. “I don’t believe any piece of equipment or forest fuel treatments will stop a wind-driven fire, however such items may reduce the rate of fire spread and I look forward to more conversations in this regard.”

Shirley says the fire department owns two sprinkler units and a request will be made for a third to be purchased through the Shuswap Emergency Program (SEP).

Cliff Doherty, SEP co-ordinator, pointed out the city and regional district are partners in the amalgamated local government’s emergency program and that a sprinkler unit team leader will appear at the next council meeting to elaborate on their effectiveness.

The updated Fire Smart Homeowner’s Manual is available online at, at Salmon Arm Fire Department Hall #3 or at city hall.