Salmon Arm firefighters knock out remaining hotspots in a hedge fire on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. Heat from the blaze caused structural damage to a nearby residence, prompting the Salmon Arm Fire Department to ask that homeowners to consider how they could better FireSmart their properties. (Salmon Arm Fire Department photo)

Salmon Arm homeowners have role in reducing wildfire risk

Several FireSmart steps can be taken during seasonal yard maintenance

For homeowners digging into their annual spring yard maintenance, now is the time to consider a FireSmart approach to landscaping.

The City of Salmon Arm is encouraging residents to adopt a proactive FireSmart approach that can help reduce the risk of property damage resulting from wildfires.

Steps that can be taken, said Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley, include maintaining a 10-metre zone around your home and outbuildings that is clear of potential fire fuels, removing shrubs, trees and woodpiles, and cleaning combustible materials such as pine needles and leaves from gutters.

“All simple things that can make a huge difference when a fire approaches one’s property,” said Shirley, adding FireSmart principles have shown they are effective at reducing risk related to losses in the most extreme wildfire conditions.

Read more: Video: Wildfire near Chase being held by fire crews

Read more: Shuswap residents urged to ensure their yard isn’t what spreads a wildfire

Read more: What can you do to protect your property from wildfires?

Read more: Shuswap landfills an alternative to open burning

“I might also add that when such wildfires exist, FireSmart homes and neighbourhoods allow firefighters to concentrate on fighting the wildfire – which ultimately saves more homes and lives.”

City of Salmon Arm Coun. Tim Lavery said the time to reduce those wildfire risks is now.

“You and your neighbours have a role to play in reducing the wildfire threat to your home,” said Lavery. “Changes made to the area closest to your home and your home itself have the greatest impact on reducing the risk of wildfire damage.”

Other steps that can be taken to protect one’s home include:

  • Space coniferous trees three metres apart;
  • Prune coniferous tree branches within 2 metres off the ground;
  • Plant low-density, fire-resistant plants and shrubs with moist, supple leaves;
  • Remove all dead vegetation and clean up your yard regularly;
  • Integrate FireSmart best practices into your short and long-term renovation projects.

The City of Salmon Arm partnered with the Neskonlith band in applying for for provincial Community Resiliency Investment funding in 2019, and again in 2020, for the undertaking of FireSmart initiatives. Silvatech Consulting from Salmon Arm co-ordinates and manages these initiatives to reduce the risk and impact of wildfire to our communities.

In 2019, a Community Wildfire Prevention Plan was developed to prioritize initiatives, including FireSmart education for residents and an instructional clearing project near the Little Mountain tennis courts (completed) and fuel load mitigation targeting fir beetle infestation. This year, fuel load mitigation in prioritized areas (Little Mountain and South Canoe) is to be increased. Also, the education effort is to be expanded with selection and training for two Salmon Arm neighbourhoods to be recognized as being FireSmart.

A Firesmart page will soon be available on the City of Salmon Arm’s website. In the meantime, Lavery recommends residents check out FireSmart Begins At Home and FireSmart Guide to Landscaping, both available on the Columbia Shuswap Regional District FireSmart web page.

Shirley notes a wildfire has already occurred in the region, and advised residents respect the provincial ban on open burns, adding anyone found in contravention can be fined.

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