Nine communities in the Kootenays are being supported through the Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Wildfire Education Grants including the RDEK, Fernie, Invermere, Kimberley, and Radium Hot Springs.

Seeing as both 2017 and 2018 were two of the most extreme wildfire seasons ever in British Columbia, Columbia Bains Trust (CBT) is distributing $154,952 in total funding for communities and residents to be prepared for the impacts of wildfires occurring within the region.

“The Basin is experiencing increased risk of wildfire as our summers grow hotter and drier,” said Tim Hicks, Delivery of Benefits Senior Manager for CBT. “We are working closely with Basin communities this year to address this reality, address challenges, and help build community resiliency in the face of wildfire.”

The grants are specifically for the delivery of public education resources that raise awareness about the risks of wildfires, and how residents and property owners can take action in their own communities to mitigate any impacts or threats.

Here’s the list of local recipients for the 2019 Community Wildfire Education Grants:

  • Regional District of East Kootenay – $25,000
    • Promote FireSmart to reduce wildfire mitigation risks on private properties and provide opportunities for increased engagement with rural communities in the Regional District of East Kootenay.
  • City of Fernie – $22,190
    • Expand public education and awareness activities including hiring a dedicated FireSmart coordinator who will provide education, and host community events and demonstrations.
  • District of Invermere – $8,227
    • Deliver community wildfire public education by recruiting Community Champions, training local FireSmart representatives, and raising awareness about wildfire mitigation strategies through door-to-door information delivery, traditional and social media and promotion at public events.
  • City of Kimberley – $7,520
    • Support training to complete FireSmart property assessments, implement an annual FireSmart demonstration day and increase public engagement through FireSmart information sessions, an annual open house and FireSmart mitigation events.
  • Village of Radium Hot Springs – $1,015
    • Support residents to achieve FireSmart standards through public engagement, education and FireSmart assessments.

In the West Kootenay, Silverton, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, Rossland, Fruitvale, and Montrose also received funding.

Kimberley got the biggest scare amongst all communities last August, as the entire community was placed on evacuation alert due to the Meachen Creek Wildfire which grew to 9,113 hectares at its largest. The City of Kimberley has undertaken extensive fuel management projects prior to and following that 2018 wildfire, and are now looking to educate and train the public on how to better be equipped for potential wildfire risks in the future.

“We want to ensure our residents have extensive opportunities to learn how to make their properties FireSmart,” said Scott Sommerville, Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Kimberley. “This means coming at the idea of preparedness from several angles. We’ll be delivering more FireSmart assessments to homeowners, working with local vendors to help them better understand FireSmart principals so they can recommend fire-resistant vegetation and building materials to homeowners, and providing educational opportunities to residents.”

Since 2012, more than $1.5 million in funding has been provided from Columbia Basin Trust to support communities in their preparation and mitigation of wildfires.