The Penticton Indian Band (PIB) and RDOS are among the communities and local governments receiving grants for wildfire protection from the B.C. government.
The PIB will be receiving $150,000 and the RDOS will be receiving $140,000, which will assist them in reducing the risk and danger of wildfire to their communities.
PIB Chief Chad Eneas said they will be using the funding to examine grassland mitigation, fire prevention and fuel reduction. They will also be focused on creating overall awareness.
Ravi Kahlon, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Forest, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, was in Penticton to announce the grants and visit the recipients in the Interior.
“Fires don’t discriminate, and we don’t discriminate,” said Kahlon. “Wherever there’s a need, we’re trying to find an opportunity for the funds to be available.”
One of the changes in the current round of grants is to make the funds fully available to the communities, with fewer requirements.
“The only major difference is that communities made it clear that they didn’t want to do the partnerships, the sharing of these funds, because many of the communities couldn’t make the money available,” said Kahlon. “So we’ve changed the grant process to provide up to 100 per cent funding for communities as opposed to matching dollars that has been historically there in the past.”
The Province aims to have the teams and funding in place to handle potential wildfires.
The RDOS plans to use their funding for several projects; to update their Official Community Plan to incorporate FireSmart principles into their communities and starting with the area of rural Osoyoos. Through the updates, the RDOS will also be looking at improving integration for community plans between municipalities and rural communities.
To achieve their fuel reduction initiatives the PIB will be removing flammable materials like wood debris, branches and undergrowth from high-risk areas near homes and critical infrastructure. This initiative however isn’t new; the PIB has been recognized as a FireSmart community since 2016.
“I think what we’ve seen too is in a crisis situation, all our communities coming together,” said Eneas. “Responding in the backcountry, where our people are out there all the time, and know which roads are open or closed, and how things change on the land. I think that’s a really important aspect to consider.”
In total, the provincial government is providing close to $9 million to 89 local governments and First Nations in B.C. to better protect themselves against wildfires.
The B.C. government has committed $60 million to the Community Resiliency Investment program to help local governments and First Nations reduce the risk of wildfire through the promotion and use of FireSmart principles. The program, launched in September 2018, replaces the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative.
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