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RMOW reminds homeowners to be FireSmart

Province adds $5M to wildfire protection program

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As the signs of spring get clearer every day, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and the Whistler Fire Service (WFS) are once again reminding homeowners to protect their properties from wildfire.

"The best thing the individual homeowner can do is to make sure that they reduce any of the hazard fuels that might be too close to their home," said WFS chief Sheila Kirkwood.

Kirkwood recommended paying special attention to branches hanging above roofs and chimneys.

"Some residents might not want to remove the trees from around their house, but we certainly recommend pruning up all those fuels that could help ignite a home," she said.

"The other bonus with removing that hazard fuel is that it also tends to clean up the yard, it brings in more light, it doesn't then allow a route for squirrels and other pests to get up into your soffits or your roof space."

The RMOW also recommends that homeowners ensure their properties are FireSmart-approved.

The WFS offers free FireSmart home hazard assessments — all you have to do is call their office at 604-935-8260 or email fire@whistler.ca to set up an appointment.

"It probably takes about half an hour, depending on how many questions the homeowner might have," Kirkwood said.

"We'll basically do a walk around on the property, we'll look at the vegetation, what they can do in terms of either removing fuel or in some cases replanting more appropriate fuels in terms of fire resistant materials."

Homeowners can also protect their properties by taking simple measures like burning garden debris and taking part in free yard waste drop-off programs.

Garden debris can be burned with a valid fire permit from April 1 to 15. The permits can be picked up at the Whistler Village Fire Hall at 4315 Blackcomb Way.

There are free yard waste drop-offs scheduled in an area adjacent to the Nesters waste depot for April 3 to 6, May 16 to 18, August 1 to 3 and October 10 to 12.

Yard waste can also be dropped off year-round at the waste transfer station in the Callaghan Valley for a tipping fee.

Beginning April 7, the RMOW and WFS will commence a wildfire fuel-thinning project in a 14.7-hectare area above the Millar's Pond and Spring Creek subdivisions.

The project involves the removal of ground brush and debris, as well as the trimming of branches and some minor tree removal.

"It really provides some resilience to that forest area above a subdivision," Kirkwood said.

"It will allow us to be much more successful in putting a wildfire out if it does start in that area. Because there's less fuel, it's easier for the crews to move around."

Following the project in the Millar's Pond and Spring Creek subdivisions the WFS will do similar work at the top of Alpine, likely in the fall.

In a press release sent out last week, the provincial government announced it would add $5 million to its wildfire protection program.

The new funding will focus on prescription and fuel treatment projects in communities facing higher-than-average wildfire risks, the release said.

"We will be applying for those funds much like we have done in the past," Kirkwood said.

"It was indicated that they want to target the interior communities or high-risk communities, but... I don't think they should ignore our coastal forest and focus just on the interior forest. They need to spread that funding out to all communities."

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