Preparations for an elevated risk this fire season

Wildfires

As freshet reaches its peak, residents are also reminded of another seasonal risk – the risk of wildfire. While the current risk is low, as things dry up, the risks become elevated and it becomes more and more important to be aware and take precautions.

“The City has been working on several provincial and municipally funded projects to reduce fire risk,” said Paul Johnson, Fire Prevention Officer for the Kelowna Fire Department. “In 2020, the City’s Urban Forestry Department completed wildfire fuel mitigation on the east parcel of Knox Mountain Park, hundreds of hectares in South East Kelowna (will have completed up to 1,000 hectares by 2022) as well as smaller projects on City-owned land and parks. We thank our partners, the Union of BC Municipalities and the Forest Enhancement Society of BC for their support on these initiatives.”

In addition to fuel mitigation initiatives, the City has updated its Community Wildfire Protection plan, reviewed every five years with the next update coming in 2021. The City continues to update the Wildfire Development Permit process, Subdivision, Zoning and other related bylaws. The City is also developing a FireSmart Demonstration Garden at the intersection of Dilworth Drive and Summit Drive with funding from Tree Canada and in partnership with Shaw Communications. The garden is anticipated to open in the late fall of 2020.

As a reminder to residents, the Fire and Life Safety Bylaw restricts open fires in the City of Kelowna and no open burning is permitted within City limits. Campfires, pizza ovens, fire pits, Chimeneas and other outdoor wood burning appliances are not permitted at any time. Propane, natural gas and charcoal briquette fueled appliances are permitted.

The Kelowna Fire Department (KFD) continues to educate homeowners about wildfire risks on properties using FireSmart guidelines. FireSmart is a national program designed to engage homeowners in voluntary wildfire mitigation activities by offering a professional home assessment with property-specific recommendations. The assessment provides an accurate evaluation of a home and property for wildfire exposure, while engaging the homeowners in their unique risk and ways to reduce that risk. While the KFD typically knock on doors each spring to connect with residents in target neighbourhoods, this practice has been impeded by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Kelowna residents can call the Fire Department at 250-469-8788 throughout the year to have their home assessed.

Several Kelowna neighbourhoods participate in the FireSmart Canada Community Recognition Program which helps neighbourhoods take the steps necessary to build wildfire resilient communities. Residents can learn more about this program at FireSmart BC.

Some tips to make your home FireSmart:

  • Remove leaves, pine and debris from your roof;
  • Maintain a 1.5 metre non-combustible zone around your home and deck;
  • Mow grass and clear leaves and weeds within 10 metres of the house;
  • Move combustible toys, patio furniture cushions, potted plants within 10 metres of your home and deck;
  • Ensure propane tanks are 10 metres from structures;
  • If you have combustible fencing, clear vegetation and debris aong both sides of the fence line; and
  • Vegetation 10 – 30 metres from the home should be trimmed to remove the ladder fuels.

As a FireSmart community, Kelowna residents are encouraged to learn more about how to improve levels of fire protection at kelowna.ca/fire < wildfire prevention. For emergency preparedness and information about how residents can be prepared in the event of a local wildfire emergency, visit cordemergency.ca.