PENTICTON, BC: The Province is providing almost $9 million to help 89 local governments and First Nations throughout British Columbia prepare so their homes, businesses and communities are better protected against the threat of wildfires.
“Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities are on the front lines of wildfire prevention, and we removed barriers so our Community Resiliency Investment program met their needs,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We fund up to 100% of local projects and projects that include Crown land because we know wildfires don’t distinguish between municipal, on-reserve and provincial Crown land.”
Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, announced the third round of 89 Community Resiliency Investment grants during a visit to recipients in the Interior. (The recipients and their projects are listed in a backgrounder.)
“The people who call these communities home know all too well the dangers from wildfires,” said Kahlon. “Our government is committed to supporting local governments and First Nations because it’s their on-the-ground efforts and local knowledge that are crucial to protecting the economic, recreational and environmental lifeblood of their communities.”
Among the recipients is the Penticton Indian Band, which will use $150,000 to reduce buildup of flammable material like wood debris, branches and undergrowth from high risk areas near homes and crucial infrastructure. The Penticton Indian Band has been a recognized FireSmart community since 2016.
“Caring for our lands, including the health of our forests, is an inherent right and responsibility we as Syilx Okanagan People take seriously and are working with many levels of government ministries through agreements like this,” said Chief Chad Eneas of the Penticton Indian Band. “Fuel management supports us to protect the cultural and heritage value of our forests, as well as ensure they can contribute to a sustainable economy for many generations.”
Kahlon met with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, which received $140,000 to update an Official Community Plan to incorporate FireSmart principles for keeping homes, neighbourhoods and communities safe. Funding will also be spent on a FireSmart educator, for public outreach and education.
Kahlon’s two-day visit will take him to Osoyoos, Summerland and Merritt to meet with representatives from multiple communities from the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres.
The B.C. government has committed $60 million to the Community Resiliency Investment program to help local governments and First Nations reduce the risk of wildfire through the promotion and use of FireSmart principles. The program, launched in September 2018, replaces the Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative.
The number of Community Resiliency Investment program grants allocated provincewide to date is now 209, amounting to more than $18.6 million.
Mitigating wildfire threats is a shared responsibility of the provincial government, local governments, First Nations, industry, stakeholders and individual British Columbians. The Community Resiliency Investment program helps increase community resiliency by funding activities that promote FireSmart education, planning and opportunities for partnerships through regional FireSmart committees. A key component of the program is that it lets communities apply for funding to cover up to 100% of a wildfire risk reduction project.
The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) administers the Community Resiliency Investment program’s FireSmart Community Funding and Supports category and processes grant applications in partnership with the ministry and the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of B.C. Eligible applicants facing a lower wildfire risk can apply for up to $25,000, while applicants facing a demonstrated higher wildfire risk can apply for up to $150,000.