Interagency Cooperation

FireSmart is a shared responsibility, which means it relies on strong and lasting partnerships

There are many stakeholders that need to be working towards building resilient communities. These people are the local fire departments, politicians and residents in your area. All of them operate independently, but in the case of wildfires, they all need to know what to do to fight a fire together.

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Politicians need to be encouraged to create legislation, plans and procedures that make it easier for you, your neighbours and firefighters to know what they need to do in case of an emergency. You can help inform these leaders by telling your local representatives how to become a FireSmart Canada Community or by joining your Regional FireSmart Committee. Or, you can also introduce them to preventative measures and costs for building wildfire homes right here.

For other stakeholders like community members or firefighters, wildfire education is crucial. FireSmart has plenty of educational resources, like the 2019 Public Presentation, which is available as a PowerPoint.

There are even educational packages for homeowners, students and anyone in your community who is unaware of what they can do to make their home and neighbourhood safer. The FireSmart BC Education Package is available for kids, ambassadors, junior officers, and homeowners.

All of these tools are available to help you build strong interagency relationships that allow your community to have better evacuation procedures, emergency response plans and information sharing. Need more information? Further resources can be found on the FireSmart Resource Page, along with other documents that can make you, your neighbours and your leaders FireSmart.

Cross-training

There are two kinds of firefighters: wildfire and structural. When both are cross-trained in wildfire suppression, communities are safer

Not all firefighters are trained the same. They are often skilled in either wildfire suppression or structural fires and not both. For the safety of communities situated in Wildland Urban Interfaces (WUI), having professionals trained in wildfire and structural-fire suppression can be the difference between an in-control or out-of-control emergency.

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Cross-training focuses on sharing the necessary knowledge needed to address both types of fires. These courses focus on equipment, practical skills, fire behaviour, communications and various other firefighting tactics. FireSmart cross-training enables specialized firefighters from one discipline to gain the basic skills of the other discipline.

Making sure your local firefighters are trained to work together for both types of fires can help wildfire-prone communities handle and contain emergency situations better. For wildfires, FireSmart offers basic training, fireline supervisory training and advanced training.

These various levels equip firefighters to handle fires by establishing proven emergency response programs that can be efficiently implemented in the event of a wildfire—or a structural fire that could potentially spread into wildland.

FireSmart also offers training programs that go beyond the classroom. These courses provide simulation exercises, so firefighters from both disciplines are ready to work together in real-world emergencies.

The B.C. Government offers training resources to fire departments in need of cross-training, but this is just one component of becoming a FireSmart Community. People like you can make the next steps to ensure all agencies involved in wildfire response are prepared in your area. Click here to apply for FireSmart certification and make your community a safer place to call home.

Emergency Planning

It takes everyone from firefighters to government representatives to homeowners to have the best-laid plans in a worst-case scenario.

Preparing yourself and your community for a wildfire emergency requires a multi-pronged approach. Individuals and agencies need to be ready to react by developing plans, mutual-aid agreements, resource inventories, training and emergency communication systems. All of these make it possible for a community to respond effectively to the threat of wildfires as a whole.

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How do get the ball rolling? Implementing FireSmart practices is one of the many ways to make sure you and your community are ready. The FireSmart Community Recognition Program provides you with the information you need to implement practices tailored specifically to your city or municipality’s needs. It gives you information on who needs wildfire training, what kind of evacuation procedures need to be in place and how your community can get certified.

How can emergency crews and community leaders get ready? Having FireSmart-certified firefighters and community leaders is an absolute must in locations threatened by wildfire. Together, they identify critical fire-suppression areas, they map out your community’s evacuation procedure, and they prepare emergency resources for disaster relief. A Certified FireSmart community will have all of these plans in place and will make all necessary information available to you.

How can you get yourself ready? In the case of a wildfire, the Last-Minute Wildfire Checklist is a great resource for homeowners whose homes are under threat. It contains evacuation tips, instructions for removing combustibles, and what to check for before leaving your home in an emergency.

Whether your a homeowner, firefighter or community leader, knowing what to do during an emergency is critical, and a Local FireSmart Representative is someone all parties can go to for information. You can find your local representative here.

To make sure you, and all agencies needed in the event of a wildfire, are prepared, apply to become a FireSmart community today. Click here for the step-by-step guide.

Vegetation Management

One of the key ways to mitigate wildfire threats is to manage vegetation on properties in fire-prone areas.

Fuel for forest fires naturally builds up over time, but it doesn’t have to accumulate on your property if you follow the FireSmart principles. And one of the first, and most important, areas to address is excess vegetation around your home.

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This should happen on an individual and community level. For communities in the Wildfire Urban Interface (WUI), there are different levels of treatment based on threat, biogeoclimatic factors, efficiencies and other factors like watersheds and wildlife habitat. A great way to identify problem areas is to have a FireSmart representative complete an FCCRP Community Wildfire Hazard Assessment Form.

Homeowners can also take steps to find out how they can manage vegetation on their own property. Keeping your gutters clear of leaves, cutting your grass to below 10 cm and excess branches that hang near your roof can save your home from the threat of wildfire. For more detailed information, the FireSmart Guide to Landscaping is a great resource for vegetation management and will help you protect your property where it matters most.

Knowing your priority zones is also a key to ensuring your home stays safe. These are the areas around each property that require unique vegetation management activities. Zone 1a (0-1.5 metres) is the non-combustible zone directly around the property where no ignitable fuel should be present. Zone 1 (1.5-10 metres) is the zone where the landscape should not permit wildfire to transfer to the home. Zone 2 (10-30 metres) is where hazards are reduced primarily by thinning and pruning of trees. Zone 3 (30-100 metres) is the zone that influences how fire approaches the property.

There are many other educational tools found here to help you and your community better understand how wildfires spread. Check out our resources page for more helpful information.

Development Considerations

Whether you’re in the design stage, building, or performing renovations, there are many ways you can help protect your home and community from wildfires.

Wildfires are a natural process in the ecosystem of B.C. As forests get older, woody debris, dead limbs and fallen trees act as natural fuel for flames that naturally eliminate the build-up of forest litter. But unfortunately, homes along the Wildfire Urban Interface (WUI) are also fuel. This doesn’t have to be the case in your community, though, because there are many ways to protect your home.

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For communities developing modernized homes, now is the time to make sure wildfire safety is built into the plans. Considerations of construction materials—and the placement of features like vents, dormers or porches—can ensure your house is protected. The FireSmart Home Development Guide is a great source of information to help developers integrate fire-ready solutions into their designs.

If your house or business building is in an established neighbourhood, a simple FireSmart Home Assessment is a great way to find out what kind of fire-ready improvements and renovations can be made. It may be your roof, siding or gutters that will most likely to add fuel to a fire, but a simple assessment can show you where risks can be eliminated or decreased.

Landscaping is also critical to the safety of homes along the WUI, and getting to know the priority zones can help homeowners and developers find out where is safe to plant and where is better to prune. This is one of the most important areas to address, and you can find out more on our Vegetation Management page.

As a community, however, everyone has to play a part in becoming FireSmart. Performing assessments of road access, water supply, and placement of utilities are just as important as taking steps to protect your home. And when everyone works together to implement these disciplines, they’ll be more likely to withstand flames instead of fan the flames of wildfires.

Education

When it comes to being FireSmart, education is everything. From landscaping best practices to fire-resilient building materials, learning what you can do today to protect against wildfires can save homes and lives tomorrow.

With rising global temperatures, the risks of wildfire are increasing. In just the past two years, over 600 homes were destroyed in wildfires, and two of the worst incidences in Canadian history have occurred in the past 20 years.

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But from the ashes of these fires, a lot of lessons have been learned. And FireSmart has turned those lessons into tools and resources for everyone to access.

These disciplines offered here are nothing new. They’ve been put into practice and researched over many years. And they work. But still, most of these disciplines are not implemented in several communities threatened by fires in BC.

That’s why education is one of the most important disciplines. Whether you’re a community member, firefighter, industry partner, First Nations leader or member of local government, you have a role to play in educating your community and yourself to be FireSmart.

As a homeowner, you can start by doing a FireSmart Home Assessment, or by learning the zones that can be managed and maintained around your house. You can also find out what you can do to ensure your community has legislation is in place to mitigate the potential risks of wildland fires becoming structural fires.

The good news is you don’t have to go further than here for all of that information. Everything you need to get informed and prepared is available on our Resources page. From your family to your neighbours to your local government, everyone has a role. And right here is where anyone can learn how to be FireSmart.

Legislation & Planning

Wildfire prevention is a community effort. It starts with proven FireSmart practices for land-planning and building legislation that focuses on fire safety.

Wildfires are usually not the top priority for legislators in developing urban areas and neighbourhoods. But when preventative measures are built into the legislation and land planning of communities, the likelihood of having to rebuild homes after a fire is greatly reduced.

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Planners and legislators can’t be expected to become experts in wildfire, but FireSmart can help them make more informed decisions. Technical information and resources available through FireSmart, like Headwaters Economics’ Wildfire-Resistant Home Guide, can assist these community leaders and authorities in developing and implementing legislation that addresses concerns in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).

Bringing these resources to your local legislators isn’t just the responsibility of fire officials. Everyone needs to play a part. Planners, community leaders, neighbours, First Nations and local government all need to work together to ensure that any land planning and legislation considers the threat of wildfire.

Of course, doing this with FireSmart disciplines in mind is easier said than done. Authorities and residents each have their unique interests when developing their communities, but fire safety is always in their best interest, especially in areas located on the Wildfire Urban Interface.

Not sure where to start? You can present wildfire information and solutions to your local legislators with the 2019 FireSmart Public Presentation. But before you do, here are some questions that can help you can ask when making the next steps toward becoming FireSmart:

  • What cost is borne by the public when wildfire hazards aren’t managed?
  • Who is responsible for ensuring planning takes place to address wildfire threat?
  • Are there legal implications if neighbourhoods are not prepared for wildfire?
  • Are their areas of the community that are more at risk than others?

If you’re in a wildfire hazard zone, it’s crucial that these questions are answered with legislation that addresses wildfire safety issues. Find out more about the other educational FireSmart resources here.