Alan Westhaver and Fire Chief Ted Ruiter unveil new signs at the Demonstration Forest. James Snell/The Free Press

Fernie Fire Department celebrates FireSmart education

"The greatest safety is a neighbourhood that is FireSmart," said Alan Westhaver.

  • Sep. 20, 2019 12:00 a.m.

The Fernie Fire Department, and the FireSmart community, officially unveiled their new signs at the FireSmart Demonstration Forest next to St. Margaret’s Cemetery on Sunday. The signs will help educate residents about reducing forest fire risk.

The event showcased education for reducing wildfire risk, as well as completed forest management projects that serve as both a demonstration site, and an actual risk mitigation zone for residence near the cemetery. A massive amount of work has been carried out by officials and residents to create FireSmart areas around the city. More work is needed, both now and in the future.

Alan Westhaver, a former adviser to the City of Fernie Fire Department on the FireSmart program, and wildfire expert, says that Fernie residents should get involved with FireSmart to reduce wildfire risk.

“First and foremost, the Fernie Fire Department has a well organized community recognition program,” he explained. “Contact the fire department and let them know you have a concern and would like to learn more. The program is in place for people to engage and learn the things they need to learn. We have more than 15 neighbourhoods in the city of Fernie that are engaged in that now. There are another 15 or 20 that could get engaged. The real important thing is that FireSmart begins at home. The greatest safety is a neighbourhood that is FireSmart.”

Westhaver added, “The Demonstration Forest was a community project that had a number of goals. To create a living example of the kinds of techniques for reducing risk by managing vegetation that would provide an example to the city. We wanted to engage residents.”

Fire Chief Ted Ruiter was happy with the project results.

“We took some property that the City owned that is heavily treed and we instituted FireSmart principles,” he explained. “We are recognizing all our community champions that were doing work in their neighbourhoods. We took advantage of some grant funding from Columbia Basin Trust to do this project, and we had some assistance from B.C. Wildfire.”

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