In British Columbia, wildfire preparedness never stops. It’s a shared responsibility that grows more important each year as climate change and other factors increase our risk. While governments, municipalities, and other organisations work year round to improve the province’s preparedness, homeowners are our first line of defence.
Those messy gutters, that unmowed lawn, and the wood piled against the house are wildfire risks within each homeowner’s control. At this point, most people know that small tasks, common chores, and a little elbow grease can make a big difference and that inaction could have serious consequences. Still, it’s not uncommon for residents to feel a little lost in their FireSmart journey, not knowing how to begin, when to stop, and if what they’ve done has actually made a difference.
Fortunately, that’s where the FireSmart Home Partners Program (HPP) can help you not only protect your property, but also potentially increase its value and decrease your insurance costs—and it’s likely already available in your community!
The HPP is designed to engage homeowners in voluntary wildfire mitigation activities by offering a free professional home assessment with property-specific recommendations. The assessment process accurately evaluates homes and properties for wildfire danger, and provides owners with tailored advice on how to reduce their risk.
The program is a collaboration between FireSmart Canada, FireSmart BC, provincial and local governments, Indigenous communities, the private sector, and Canadian homeowners. It helps residents understand the nature of fire and how it behaves on properties. But, most importantly, it empowers them to take action to limit their own hazard level.
When you complete an assessment, you’ll get the opportunity to earn a FireSmart Home Partners Certificate that acknowledges your mitigation achievements. This certificate can be used to improve the value of your home by reassuring prospective buyers that the appropriate level of wildfire risk reduction has been achieved on your property. It can also be shared with local insurance providers to showcase your mitigation efforts and maintain coverage for losses incurred by wildfire. (FireSmart does not share assessments with the insurance industry or any other third party.)
How to schedule your assessment
Once you’ve scheduled your appointment, a FireSmart Home Partners Wildfire Mitigation Specialist (WMS) will visit you to complete a comprehensive assessment of your home and yard. Wildfire mitigation specialists are able to accurately evaluate each home and property for wildfire exposure and risk, critically assessing structures based on the current understanding of how and why homes are lost during fire events.
Depending on the size and complexity of your property, the WMS will likely take between one and three hours to complete the assessment.
What to expect from your assessment
During the initial assessment, the WMS will walk around your property a few times to collect data on the landscape, building envelope, and stored materials. The assessment will be interactive and the WMS can explain everything as they go.
The WMS may recommend mitigation work, like removing or pruning trees and modifying the roof or siding of structures. Following the assessment of your home, the WMS will work their way out through each of the FireSmart priority zones to assess landscaping, vegetation, and combustible storage.
Once your assessment is complete, the WMS will generate a customised, digital report that details all of the mitigation work that you should complete and provide a FireSmart work plan for your home and property. The report, which includes pictures, comments, and markups, will be sent to you, along with resources to assist in completing any home retrofit work or forestry contracting.
Preparing for your FireSmart Home Partners assessment
While a WMS will eventually provide a work plan with recommendations for your home and property, here are some helpful tips to reduce your risk before your scheduled visit:
- Clean debris, such as leaves, pine needles, and branches out of gutters, eaves, and along your roof.
- Clean up surface fuels around your property, like dead grass, dry shrubs, leaves, pine needles, brush, and deadfall.
- Move firewood and construction materials 10 metres from your home.
- Regularly mow and water your lawn (keep grass shorter than 10 centimetres).
- Prune tree branches within 2 metres of the ground.
- Use plants that won’t catch fire easily.
- Remove branches that hang over the roof.
- Properly store away combustible materials.
FireSmart BC also has many resources available to help improve the wildfire resiliency of your home and neighbourhood:
- The FireSmart Homeowners Manual empowers homeowners with critical information, like how wildfires grow and spread, how to spot hazards in and around a structure, and how to store fuel sources at a safe distance.
- The FireSmart BC Landscaping Guide includes an extensive list of FireSmart plants, instructions on how to recognize the characteristics of other garden-favourites not yet on the list, and expert insights on making vegetation a barrier that keeps embers from igniting your property.
- The FireSmart BC Plant Program provides gardeners, landscapers, and suppliers with the knowledge and tools to help mitigate wildfire risks where they live and work.
If you are concerned about your neighbourhood’s fire risk, ask local authorities, the planning department, or fire department how they are integrating FireSmart principles into their plans. You can also reach out to your Local FireSmart Representative to assess your home and enrol your neighbourhood in the FireSmart Canada Neighbourhood Recognition Program (FCNRP). The Home Partners Program is the next step in FireSmart and is growing fast across BC—over 30 municipalities and First Nations are already taking part. Find out if your community offers assessments, and join the program today!