From Destruction to Determination: Building a FireSmart Future in 2024

When it comes to wildfire preparedness, it’s crucial to learn all that we can from previous wildfire seasons. This is especially true for the 2023 wildfire season, as it was the most destructive in British Columbia’s recorded history. To put this in perspective, over 2.84 million hectares of land burned, more than double the previous record of 1.35 million hectares in 2018. 

The 2023 wildfire season also saw the evacuation of tens of thousands of people across BC, forcing people to leave their homes for days or weeks at a time. Hundreds of homes and other structures were also damaged or lost in towns and cities throughout the province. While the 2023 wildfire season was devastating, there are many lessons that can be learned from it. It’s through these lessons that we are able to increase wildfire resilience and preparedness, helping to minimize the impacts of future wildfires. 

Learning from these experiences can also help us be proactive in the face of wildfires instead of reactive, preparing for emergencies before a fire is on our doorstep. That’s what FireSmart is all about: educating residents on the steps they can take now to increase the chances of their home surviving a wildfire. Every step we take makes properties more resilient, positively impacting communities while bringing us one step closer to creating a FireSmart province.

Now is the Time to be Proactive

If there’s one thing to be learned from the 2023 wildfire season, it’s that proactive preventative measures are crucial for minimizing the potential impact of wildfires. But what do these measures look like? Cleaning your gutters. Removing flammable vegetation. Pruning low-hanging tree branches. These are all actions that can be performed before wildfire season to make your home more resilient. 

While it’s all too tempting to put off this work until the weather warms up, now is the perfect time to be proactive and start crossing some of these tasks off your list. Tools like the FireSmart Weather Report can be used to give you a good idea of what you can do based on your current weather conditions. This allows you to make tangible changes to your property during the offseason, so you can be prepared when wildfire season arrives. 

A Perfect Example of Proactive Preventative Measures

Sometimes, it helps to see an example of proactive preventative measures in action. For this, we can look at Deanna Hamilton and her home in West Kelowna. Deanna recognized that her home was at risk of damage or loss from wildfire. This prompted her to contact FireSmart and schedule a Home Ignition Zone Assessment. Through this assessment, Deanna was provided with a tailored list of actions she could complete to lower the risk level of her property. These actions included cutting her grass, removing flammable vegetation from the Immediate Zone of her property, and replacing bark mulch in her gardens with gravel. 

Deanna took these recommendations to heart, quickly completing each task to bolster the fire resilience of her property. This combination of an in-depth assessment and completion of FireSmart actions helped Deanna’s home survive the McDougall Creek wildfire, even when several surrounding homes were lost. Her home serves as the perfect reminder that increasing wildfire resilience typically doesn’t require a substantial amount of work. In most cases, it’s the combined impact of many smaller actions that help to create a FireSmart property. 

How to Prepare Your Property

If you’re considering starting your wildfire resilience journey, it can be difficult to determine where to begin. With so many potential tasks to complete, it can quickly become overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created several resources—such as the FireSmart Begins at Home Guide—to help you get started on your journey and make informed decisions for your property. If you’re looking for something to get done this winter or spring, consider:

  • Pruning tree branches within 2 m of the ground. 
  • Clearing all debris from your gutters and roof (so long as it is safe to do so). 
  • Removing flammable vegetation within the 1.5 m zone (Immediate Zone) around your property. 
  • Choosing FireSmart plants for your garden. 
  • Having fire-resistant windows installed. 
  • Cleaning out under your deck and removing all flammable materials. 
  • Moving firewood piles at least 10 m away from your home. 
  • Replacing bark mulch with gravel mulch or crushed rock. 
  • Removing coniferous trees around your property to create at least 3 m of space between them. 
  • Cleaning up flammable debris (fallen leaves, branches, etc.) around your property. 
  • Visiting our Landscaping Hub for more information on FireSmart landscaping. 

It’s actions like these that can make a world of difference in terms of wildfire resilience. If you’re looking to take your proactive preparation a step further, consider the FireSmart BC Home Partners Program (HPP). This program was designed to encourage residents to complete wildfire mitigation activities by offering a professional home assessment with property-specific recommendations. 

To get your assessment, all you need to do is locate the region you live in and complete the online application form. A FireSmart Home Partners Program WMS (Wildfire Mitigation Specialist) will then follow up with you to confirm your appointment. During your appointment, the WMS will perform a comprehensive review of your property and provide you with a list of actions you can perform to reduce wildfire risk. 

Upon successful completion of each of these actions, you can then schedule a follow-up assessment to receive a mitigation certification. This mitigation certification can be shared with participating insurance providers to showcase mitigation activities and may allow you to be eligible for insurance incentives or discounts. With the Home Partners Program, you can significantly increase the fire resilience of your property and potentially save money at the same time, making it well worth the investment. 

Every action you take to increase the resilience of your home could be the difference that allows it to survive a wildfire. As we move forward into 2024, let’s be sure to remember the many lessons 2023 taught us about wildfire resilience. By keeping what we’ve learned in mind, we can be proactive and prepare our properties and our province as a whole for the upcoming wildfire season.

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