When Shaun Koopman, protective services coordinator for the Strathcona Regional District, opened up a survey last year to gauge the public’s awareness about the hazards of our region, one of the numbers that came back caught him extremely off guard.
Of the 600 or so respondents to the survey, only five per cent answered “yes” to the question, “Have you evaluated the fire vulnerability of your property based on the FireSmart checklist?”
“Whether that was because they just didn’t know what the FireSmart program is, or because they don’t view fire as much of a risk because they’re in an urban area, or some other reason,” Koopman says, “I really can’t say. But it did show me we really needed to work on our education and outreach.”
So an application was sent to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for a grant to promote the FireSmart program and engage in some community education. They were successful in aquiring that grant and are now going to run a contest to give away five free FireSmart assessments on residential properties in the region.
There are 10 assessments to be given away, Koopman says, and the contest opens next Thursday night (May 10) at the Tidemark Theatre, where FireSmart Canada, the City of Campbell River and the Strathcona Regional District are co-hosting a public information session entitled “Fireside Chat in Two Parts.”
As the name suggests, there are two parts to the session, Koopman says, both of which will be both informative and enlightening for anyone with property and/or interest in our natural surroundings.
“Part one is Mark Petrovic from BC Wildfire Service talking about the fire season last year, how forestry practices have changed on the Island over time and how that has influenced the fire risk here, as well as how the vegetation on the Island differs from the Interior, making our fire risks different here.”
Part two, however, will be more of a “How-To” for property owners.
“Henry Grierson from Strategic Natural Resources will talk about the FireSmart principles, how homeowners, especially, can take simple steps to reduce the potential impacts a wildfrie will have on their home, as well as tie it all in to the facts from Campbell River’s Wildfire Protection Plan,” Koopman says.
The contest will be open for one month, at which time 10 names will be drawn and the assesments will be organized. What happens from there is up to the homeowners themselves, however.
“Unfortunately, the FireSmart grant is only for education,” Koopman says. “It can’t fund any work that may be needed for homeowners to mitigate any risks to their property. Thankfully, most of the work that will likely be needed is either free or very low-cost. It’s mostly work that needs to be done anyway for aesthetic reasons, such as cleaning up yard debris, that kind of thing.
“But in my ideal world, the people who win these FireSmart assessments will invite all of their friends, family and neighbours over to participate in that so that the education can travel that much further, especially because if one home has a low FireSmart rating but all the ones around it are high, that doesn’t do the neighbourhood much good.”
With next week being BC Emergency Preparedness week, there are some other things going on, as well.
The Campbell River Fire Department is hosing its annual open house next Saturday, and Koopman is doing outreach sessions all over the region.
“We’ll be holding a similar FireSmart presentation in Gold River on Tuesday May 8 from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Gold River Chamber of Commerce, and we’re back there on Friday doing a four-hour session on business continuity and FireSmart planning for local business.
Koopman also encourages anyone else who is interested in hosting an emergency preparedness session to go ahead and contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 250-830-6702.
Because next week is the perfect time to be reminded to keep emergency preparedness top of mind.