The Zeballos wildfire from August. The SRD wants to update wildfire plans for communities. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

Strathcona Regional District wants to develop wildfire plans for more areas

Board passes motion to apply for grant to fund planning work for Area A, Read Island

If this summer’s wildfire in Zeballos is a sign of things to come, the Strathcona Regional District wants to be prepared.

With an application deadline looming, at the Dec. 6 SRD meeting the board unanimously passed a motion to apply for a grant to help the SRD develop community wildfire protection plans. This would cover Read Island and Electoral Area A, including the municipal governments and First Nation partners in the area.

The deadline to apply was Dec. 7.

“The reason that this is coming to you pretty close to the deadline is there have been a lot of moving pieces to this report that’s changed over time,” emergency program coordinator Shaun Koopman told the board.

The wildfire protection plans help local governments identify risks associated with wildland/urban interface fire in their immediate and surrounding communities. The budget covers actual plan development, travel, community input sessions, mapping, final review and presentations to the community.

The SRD is applying to the Union of B.C. Municipalities under its Community Resiliency Investment program for grant funding to help prepare the plans, which focus on FireSmart activities in communities. The grant is worth up to $25,000 and can cover 100 per cent of these activities.

“I’m ecstatic that you’re doing this for Read [Island],” Area C Director Jim Abram said.

He wanted to clarify the cost to the regional district, as the proposed budget is higher than the $25,000.

“It will cost the Strathcona Regional District nothing,” Koopman said.

Abram also asked if there was “any tie-in” to the amount of input the SRD has been getting from the north part of Quadra Island about fire risks. Koopman responded that this is a separate matter

Ultimately, the regional district would manage up to $200,000 for a program on behalf of the partnering First Nations and municipalities adjacent to Area A, as well as Area itself. The proposed budget is estimated at $150,000, according to the staff report.

If successful in its grant application, the regional district will develop community wildfire protection plans for two of the SRD’s populated areas currently without plans: Electoral Area A and Read Island. As well, it would collaborate with the Village of Gold River, Village of Zeballos and Village of Sayward to update their local plans, which were developed in 2011, as well as work with the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k:tles7et’h First Nations and Nuchatlaht First Nation to put together plans for their areas.

According to the SRD staff report, all the municipal governments in the SRD have plans, as do Cortes Island, Quadra Island and Area D. No other unincorporated areas currently do, and only one of the First Nations, the Weiwaikum, have a plan.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh asked about plans for her area, which has developed five years ago.

“I’m wondering how often those plans get reviewed,” she said. “Things have changed in Area D over the last five years…. We may need to have a review.”

Leigh pointed to activities to such significant logging going on in parts of the electoral area. She said that with the south part of her area covered by the Oyster River Volunteer Fire Department, she is most concerned for the north part.

The SRD, Koopman responded, wants to update the plans for Area C and D in the next round of planning to take into account this kind of new information. He added that the goal is to update Area C as a whole, not simply Quadra Island as was the case in 2011.

“When it was first developed in 2011, it focused on strictly Quadra Island. Why that was the point, I’m not too sure,” he said. “It should be a full regional electoral area approach going forward.”

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