Earlier this year, the City of Kimberley and its Fire Department decided to test the waters on grants available for fuel management work on city lands.
With the way grants for fuel management work were distributed changing, there was a pot of money available, in addition to the new $100,000 per year limit, in a Community Resilience Investment Program.
The City decided to test the waters and see if those funds could be made available for interface work.
And it turns out that was a good test.
The city applied for $1.8 million in funding over three years and just recently learned that they had been approved for $700,000 over two years.
“If we fulfill the work for the first two years, we will get the third year and the $1.8 million in total,” Mayor Don McCormick said.
There will be five areas of city lands included in the treatments. Other grant applications for work outside the city are underway, McCormick says.
That piece will require more collaboration with outside agencies, including CanFor, the Regional District of East Kootenay and the Ktunaxa among others.
“We need a fire guard of some kind in the St. Mary Valley,” McCormick said earlier this year. “If you fly over the valley, it is contiguous forest, one continuous crown. That is the worst thing for a wind-fed fire. We will be in better shape with work in the city but we need a guard in the valley.”
The five different areas in the city include two different sections of the Kimberley Nature Park, Myrtle Mountain, The Kimberley Nordic Area and Forest Crowne.
All these lands are on the west flank of the city, in the path of most historical wildfires.
The main focus will be controlled burning and thinning.
“There has been ongoing fuels management work going on in Kimberley for 12 years now,” McCormick said. “And we have been encouraging FireSmart practices. But the Meachen fire last year was pretty close to home. It’s a little different smelling smoke from other fires all summer to having a fire threaten the community. It causes you to think more clearly about ‘what would happen if’.”
He says that residents will see the Fire Department out there being more aggressive with talking about FireSmart practices with property owners as well.