Rossland’s a little safer from forest fires thanks to the work of dozens of residents clearing debris and garbage from their neighbourhoods and properties last weekend.
FireSmart work bees, awards ceremonies and a community-wide Wildfire Hazard Cleanup Day all took place on Saturday.
Residents of three Rossland neighbourhoods — Black Bear, Iron Colt and McLeod East — participating in the program since 2017 were awarded recognition for 2018 participation.
One of those neighbourhoods — McLeod East — received a $500 cheque from FireSmart Canada and a box full of FireSmart swag — T-shirts, banners, gloves, mugs, water bottles and much more. McLeod East used the award money to hire a FireSmart arborist to do some bucking and slashing of wildfire hazardous trees and branches in the neighbourhood — residents then hauled the debris to curbside.
Rossland’s Wildfire Hazard Cleanup Day was also staged Saturday and residents across Rossland were encouraged to to spend a few hours in their yards reducing accumulations of vegetation and debris that contribute to wildfire spread when fire danger climbs later in the summer. Provincial FireSmart program grant money is supporting free pickup of all vegetation and debris using City of Rossland equipment.
The reason for all this FireSmart activity is the provincially funded FireSmart Canada community recognition program, which now has eight participating neighbourhoods in Rossland.
“We’re working with priority neighbourhoods on the city perimeter right now but will add other neighbourhoods where residents express an interest and where a wildfire risk does exist,” said Don Mortimer, who works with the City of Rossland FireSmart program. He’s also the local FireSmart representative for the eight active FireSmart boards in the Rossland neighbourhoods.
“This program is run by the residents themselves, taking priority actions on simple steps to reduce the wildfire hazard on their homes and in their yards — they work with a fire professional like myself who recommends specific actions and gets them started,” he said. “Progressively, by staging annual FireSmart events like the fuel treatment work bee at McLeod East on Saturday, the neighbourhood reduces wildfire risk and ultimately achieves national recognition under the FireSmart communities program.”
“This is our third year in this program and it’s amazing what gets accomplished once everyone understands the potential hazards,” said Bob McQueen, the FireSmart community champion for the McLeod East neighbourhood.
“One of the big motivators for me was learning that when a wildfire hits a community, multiple house ignitions occur and the local firefighters become totally overwhelmed — they aren’t equipped for dealing with large emergencies. One burning home can start a chain reaction that ignites the whole neighbourhood,” he added. “We don’t want that so we’re approaching this as a neighbourhood — helping each other to reduce our wildfire hazard and vulnerability to wildfire ignition.”
Anyone with questions or interest in the Rossland FireSmart Communities Program can contact Don Mortimer, City of Rossland FireSmart program at firstname.lastname@example.org.