Project aims to 'fire-smart' central B.C. properties by removing wildfire fuel

A program to help seniors and residents with disabilities remove wildfire fuel from their properties has been introduced in central B.C.

Fire Mitigation Project aimed at seniors, residents who have mobility or mental health barriers

A home on the Ashcroft First Nation, near Ashcroft, B.C., as wildfires burned nearby in July 2017. The Fire Mitigation Project aims to clean up potential wildfire fuel for residents in central B.C. who may not be able to do the work themselves. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

A program to help seniors and residents with disabilities remove wildfire fuel from their properties has been introduced in central B.C.

United Way has partnered with WorkBC and the federal and B.C. provincial governments to offer the free Fire Mitigation Project in Williams Lake, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, the Quesnel area and 100 Mile House.

The program, funded by the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction, is aimed at seniors and community members who have mobility or mental health barriers, who are unable to remove wildfire fuel themselves. 

"We're hoping that it will decrease the likelihood that a wildfire will take down the home. But it's also to relieve some of the stress," Tamara Sommer, the project's coordinator in Williams Lake, told Daybreak Kamloops host Shelley Joyce.

Removing fuel

Sommer says the Fire Mitigation Project will specifically treat private property, pruning trees and removing needles, leaves and other potential fuel. Residents will also be given recommendations on making their homes more resistant to fires.

"Keep your grass nice and short in the summer and water it if you can ... and take out trees. If your property is heavily saturated with trees, space them out," Sommer advised. 

Sommer says the project aims to treat 40 homes within each of the four regions. Participants will not work on ranches, businesses or commercial properties.

A wildfire is seen from a Canadian Forces Chinook helicopter near Williams Lake, B.C. in 2017. (CP / Darryl Dyck)

Creating jobs

The project also aims to create employment through the Job Creation Partnerships project at WorkBC. 

"We are providing [unemployed] E.I.-eligible participants 29 weeks of work to do the fire mitigation activities [and] conduct the risk assessments, while helping them improve their job skills and communication, time management planning and other relevant skill sets," says Sommer, who adds that the program will provide training.

Sommer says the fire mitigation activities will encourage others to "fire-smart" their homes as well, helping them prepare for the next wildfire season.

To apply for cleanup, qualifying residents can contact:

  • Steve Dodge in Quesnel at 250-255-4687
  • Tamara Sommer in Williams Lake at 778-267-8206
  • Brianna Clark in 100 Mile House at 250-945-5945
  • Karen Nyce in the Ashcroft/Cache Creek/Clinton region 250-279-0672

The project is currently underway and will end May 3, 2019. 

Listen to the full interview here:

United Way has partnered with Work BC and the provincial and federal governments to offer a new fire mitigation program. The free program is aimed at seniors and community members who have mobility or mental health barriers, and are unable to remove fire fuel from their property themselves. 3:22

With files from Daybreak Kamloops