A forestry service helicopter dumps a load of water on a wildfire near Summerland last year.

A forestry service helicopter dumps a load of water on a wildfire near Summerland last year.

Penticton fire department secures wildfire safety grants

The Penticton Fire Department is looking to do some preventative maintenance, not on their vehicles, but on some high hazard forested areas.

The Penticton Fire Department is looking to do some preventative maintenance, not on their vehicles, but on some high hazard forested areas.

Deputy chief Dave Spalding was before council Monday, looking for their support for a grant application to the Union of B.C. Municipalities Strategic Wildfire Program Initiative in order to develop a fuel management prescription for fuel breaks in the Riddle Road area and near the Penticton Landfill.

“These are areas within our borders that have been targeted as high hazard areas that are the first of many to begin with a prescription, then to have fuel treatments to do clean up,” said Spalding. Both areas were identified as high hazard in the community wildfire protection plan, developed with a grant the department received last year.

Spalding said the cost of the Riddle Road fuel break is $13,815 plus $7,038.75 for the landfill fuel break. But if the UBCM grants are approved, the total cost to the city will only be $6,951, with the grant program picking up the remaining 75 per cent of the costs.

“It doesn’t sound like very much and that would be in the 2017 budget,” said Spalding. “The applications for the grant actually closed April 30, so we are under a time crunch to support those with the council resolution.”

A public education program developed with another grant received last year is helping deal with fire hazards on private land.

“The FireSmart grant is to give us an opportunity to work with those private land owners to try to do education and to help them understand what they need to clean up,” said Spalding. “Unfortunately on private land, it is their responsibility financially to do that work.”

The first FireSmart session is coming up on May 29,  in Sendero Canyon at 2047 Lawrence Avenue in front of the park, starting at 12:30 p.m.  Residents, along with anyone who lives in a wildfire interface area, is encouraged to attend.

The information session deals with factors like fire smart building construction as well as site preparation and managing the area around buildings: mature trees, shrubs, grass and woodpiles are all potential fuels and easily ignitable combustibles.

Having a FireSmart protection plan is also important. Interface fires often start as small accidental ignitions, but you can reduce the danger and be prepared by planning ahead. For more information, attend the session or find a copy of the FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual at bcwildfire.ca.