British Columbia

New program advises B.C. homeowners how the right plants and trees can help protect property from wildfire

FireSmart B.C. wants people to know how to protect their homes from wildfire using plants — the right ones, in the right places.

FireSmart B.C. Landscaping Guide gives tips on fire-resilient trees and how to tend your yard

Tags at select Art Knapp garden centres indicating which plants are fire-resilient are being used to educate people about how to better protect their homes. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

As British Columbians head outside to tend to their spring gardens, a new program is being launched to teach homeowners how the right yard work can better protect their property from wildfire. 

The FireSmart B.C. Landscaping Guide recommends fire-resilient species to plant, how to care for them and the best spots to plant certain trees and shrubs to minimize the damage to structures if a fire were to occur. 

"It's moving away from having cedars and junipers right up against your home," said FireSmart education officer Amanda Reynolds. 

"And it's about making better decisions and/or smarter decisions to help protect your home."

FireSmart B.C. has launched a new campaign in partnership with Art Knapp Garden Centre locations in Prince George and Kamloops to show people how to prevent their homes from being damaged by wildfires. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Art Knapp Garden Centre locations in Prince George and Kamloops are helping launch the program by tagging plants that are fire resilient. 

Prince George centre owner Jos Van Hage says he's impressed by the new guide.   

"It tells you how to plant, where to plant, what to plant and how to clean it up. And it gives you a whole list of all trees and shrubs for our zone," he told CBC's Andrew Kurjata.

An important part of preventing fire from spreading in the yard, Van Hage said, is being mindful when it comes to tidying up the yard in the fall and the spring. 

"You don't have to clean everything up here in the fall," he said.

Perennials and shrubbery, he said, can provide protection from frost. 

Ornamental grasses, however, should be tended to because they die off over winter and become a fire hazard when they dry out in the spring, Van Hage said. 

Jos Van Hage, owner of the Art Knapp garden centre in Prince George, emphasizes the importance of proper planning and cleanup when it comes to gardens. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

For now, the plant-tagging program is launching only in Prince George and Kamloops, but guides will be available in nurseries and garden centres throughout the province and can be downloaded on the FireSmart B.C. website.

Reynolds said they'd eventually like to be tagging fire-resilient plants in all garden centres in B.C. 

"Protecting your home is the best way that everyone in B.C. can help — not only themselves, but all the first responders that are involved in the wildfire season," she said. 

"Wildfire is inevitable. But we can do our part to protect our homes."

With files from Andrew Kurjata