The Cowichan Valley Regional District is hoping for substantial funding to help beef up its abilities to deal with wildfires.
On Oct. 12 the CVRD’s board approved a grant application for up to $650,000 from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities’ Community Resiliency Investment Program mainly to continue several ongoing FireSmart projects throughout the region.
The funding request comes on the heels of a 4.1-hectare wildfire that threatened the Sahtlam area early in October.
The provincial program is intended to reduce the risk and impact of wildfire to communities in B.C.
This is achieved through community funding for preparedness, planning and mitigation activities like FireSmart.
A staff report by April Diver, the CVRD’s emergency program coordinator, said if the grant is successful, the funding would be used for FireSmart projects in residential areas.
This includes home-ignition assessments and neighbourhood-wildfire hazard assessments, several FireSmart mitigation projects for critical infrastructure, structural-protection equipment for the North Oyster and Malahat fire departments and two FireSmart coordinator positions.
“Continued progress on the FireSmart program is a critical component of the future regional emergency management approach,” Diver said.
“FireSmart activities are not fiscally possible without leveraging grant funding annually.”
Lynne Smith, the CVRD’s director for Saltair/Gulf Islands, said at the committee of the whole meeting on Oct. 12 that the community is becoming increasingly concerned about wildfires.
“We are seeing more wildfires, more droughts and more extreme fire-hazard times in our areas,” she said.
“Many of us have extremely large forested areas and I know that with Electoral Area G wrapping around the Town of Ladysmith, it’s a great concern.”
Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said there’s a keen and growing interest among board members for the type of work the grant money would allow, considering the recent wildfire in the Sahtlam area.
He said the equipment, training and other measures that the grant would pay for is very important considering the increasing number and length of the droughts in the area, and the changing weather patterns.
“This is really important in regards to resiliency and responsiveness to wildfires,” Morrison said.
“Vancouver Island is in a bad spot with the amount of fuel there is in the forests.”
Morrison asked Diver if staff could provide reports on the issue to the board on a more regular basis.
“I think we want to know a little bit more than just when we’re putting in grant applications,” he said.
“The [FireSmart] program has been so well received in my community that we’d be interested in raising requisition to acquire more equipment and not just wait until grants become available. We were fortunate with the recent wildfire, but we may not be so lucky in the future.”
Diver said staff can report to the board more frequently on the issue.
“If there is interest in requisitioning for additional purchases, we can certainly start reporting on what is being purchased,” she said.
“We are [currently] very limited as to what we purchase beyond the grants because grants are our major funding source for equipment.”