FireSmart BC and BCAA are coming together to make wildfire resilience a reality for residents across our province. Earlier this year, FireSmart BC partnered with BCAA to help educate British Columbians on wildfire preparedness and prevention while increasing access to support and resources for those who live in remote, high-risk communities. But as wildfires become more frequent and intense in British Columbia, more resources are needed to support residents in their resilience journeys.
That’s why BCAA is investing $750,000 into wildfire preparedness and prevention with FireSmart BC to form the BCAA FireSmart Initiative. The goal of this initiative is to educate communities and increase resiliency through the distribution of various educational resources, community events, and programs such as the Home Partners Program. Through this partnership, we’ll be able to assist individuals and communities that need it the most.
With this investment from BCAA, three key areas will be addressed to help tackle different barriers a community or individual may face on their journey to wildfire resiliency. These areas include:
1. Community Outreach
We’ll increase our efforts for proactive, educational outreach to at-risk, remote, and under-supported communities. This community outreach support will come from fire experts, giving community members the knowledge they need to start their resilience journey and sustain it for the coming years.
2. Resource Development
We’ll continue to develop and distribute educational resources for community leaders exploring FireSmart BC programming. In addition to creating new educational resources, we’ll work to ensure that they’re accessible by the communities and individuals that need them the most.
3. Community Grants
BCAA will provide financial support to begin new, or enhance existing FireSmart initiatives in participating communities to increase fire resiliency. In addition, BCAA offers an insurance discount to individuals in British Columbia who complete a Home Partners Program assessment, allowing them to increase their fire resilience and save money at the same time. Over time, the partnership will expand to offer financial assistance towards the costs of making the changes needed to achieve Home Partners Program certification.
The Community Impact Initiative
As part of the partnership between FireSmart BC and BCAA, three communities have been chosen as part of our Community Impact Initiative. This initiative is focused on helping at-risk and under-resourced communities get the support they need to increase wildfire resiliency. The selected communities include the District of Lillooet, the Skeetchestn Indian Band, and Xeni Gwet’in First Nation.
1. District of Lillooet
The District of Lillooet is situated approximately 2 hours northeast of Whistler and located within the traditional territory of the St’át’imc Nation. Surrounded by extremely rugged terrain and located between the Coast Mountains to the west and the Fraser River to the east, Lillooet sits in a rain shadow area that is typically drier than the coast.
As a community classified with the highest possible wildfire risk rating, Lillooet experienced 31 wildfires within a 50 km radius during the 2023 wildfire season. These fires included the nearby Casper Creek wildfire, which resulted in an evacuation order, and the Stein Mountain wildfire. These stark realities highlight the need for, and potential benefits from, increased FireSmart educational resources and programs.
Speaking of programs, the District of Lillooet is now in the early stages of adopting the Home Partners Program, having started it earlier this year. By adopting the Home Partners Program and making use of FireSmart resources, Lillooet will be able to enhance their fire resiliency and significantly strengthen the safety of their community.
2. Skeetchestn Indian Band
The Skeetchestn Indian Band is a member of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) Nation, located in the central interior region in Savona, British Columbia. Like Lillooet, Skeetchestn Indian Band faces an extreme wildfire risk rating and has a significant history with wildfire. In 2017, the Elephant Hill wildfire forced residents to evacuate, and again in 2021, a month-long evacuation occurred due to the Sparks Lake Wildfire, the severity of which prompted the Secwepemc Nation to declare a state of emergency.
This history underscores the importance of increasing resilience and continuing to build on the success of FireSmart programs in this community.
3. Xeni Gwet’in First Nation
The Xeni Gwet’in, are a First Nations people whose traditional territory is located in the southern Chilcotin District of British Columbia.They are located approximately 2.5 hours west of Williams Lake. As an at-risk, remote community, Xeni Gwet’in First Nation will benefit from outreach efforts and additional investment to mitigate the extreme wildfire risks they face.
These risks are compounded by the fact that their community only has one dependable evacuation route, making continued wildfire resilience even more critical. They are currently in the early stages of the Home Partners Program, making good progress with assessments and carrying out mitigation actions. For example, many homes now have gravel instead of bark mulch in their Immediate Zones. It’s steps like these that can make a world of difference.
By reaching out to these communities and helping them access our programs and resources, we’re able to directly educate residents on what it means to build wildfire resilience and what a FireSmart property looks like. In addition to tools like the Home Partners Program, we’re reaching these remote communities with various educational resources including the FireSmart Begins at Home Guide, the Emergency Wildfire Preparedness Checklist, and our Landscaping Hub. It’s this combination of programs, fuel treatments, community events, and education that will support these remote communities in their FireSmart journey.
Making a Positive Impact for All British Columbians
While focusing on positively impacting at-risk communities is the top priority of our partnership, we also aim to make a broader impact for all British Columbians living in wildfire-prone areas. To that end, we’ve set out to help residents protect their homes and save money at the same time through insurance discounts. The first step? Scheduling your home assessment through the Home Partners Program. Once your assessment is scheduled, a fire professional will come to evaluate your home, note potential wildfire hazards, and present you with a list of tailored mitigation recommendations for your property. From here, you’ll have the opportunity to implement these recommendations.
These recommendations can range from keeping your lawn cut to removing highly flammable plants around your property. Regardless of the actions, every step you take will bring you closer to having a FireSmart-mitigated property. Upon completion of each step, a follow-up assessment will be conducted by a fire professional to ensure that each recommendation was completed and that no other risks are present. Once this follow-up assessment is successfully completed, you’ll receive FireSmart certification that can be shared with participating insurance providers for a discount on your home insurance.
FireSmart BC x BCAA
Through this partnership, FireSmart BC and BCAA are united by a common goal: to increase the wildfire resilience of at-risk communities throughout our province. Whether it’s through the Home Partners Program, our educational resources, or landscape fuel treatments, we’re committed to supporting communities of all sizes in their FireSmart journey. This partnership will allow us to reach more residents throughout BC, giving them the resources and support they need to protect their property from wildfire now and for years to come.
To learn more about FireSmart BC, visit: https://firesmartbc.ca/
To learn more about BCAA, visit: https//www.bcaa.com