February 5th, 2014 ~ Vol. 84 No. 5
Province and municipality
pool resources for FireSmart
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
Left, Steve Munshaw, fire chief for the municipality and Jason McAleenan, wildfire ranger with the ESRD planning FireSmart work.
Pass Herald Reporter
The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is partnering with Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development ESRD to conduct FireSmart work as part of the Crowsnest Pass Wildfire Mitigation Strategy.

The FireSmart program will control wildfires by removing excess vegetation from designated areas to create buffer zones around communities, while allowing some wildfires to occur naturally.

According to Richard Paton, FireSmart coordinator with ESRD, FireSmart work will reduce the risk of fire and make it easier for firefighters to work in an area. Removing ground vegetation prevents fires from climbing into the forest canopy, making them easier to control and keeping communities safer.

“We’re not guaranteeing that what we’re doing can save a home,” says Paton. “But it’s better than leaving it the way it is.

The municipality and ESRD have pooled their resources to put out a requestfor- proposals to complete FireSmart work as part of the Crowsnest Pass Wildfire Mitigation Strategy. The work will take place on nine blocks of land, totalling 309 hectares.

The municipality is contributing $50,000 dollars, $30,00 of which will go to the actual modification of lands. The province is contributing an undisclosed amount. Munshaw and Richard Paton, will be meeting with potential bidders on Feb. 4.

The winning bidders will be responsible for removing the bottom two metres of vegetation, removing dead or diseased trees and chipping and burning residual flammable material. The work will begin as soon as the contract is awarded and is expected to continue until the end of March 2014. All of the work will be done by gas-powered hand tools or by machinery.

Munshaw hopes the work is completed before the March deadline, as the winter season is the safest time to conduct this type of work.

“We want to burn a lot of this stuff and we want to chip it as much as we can. We do not want to put extra hazards in a very volatile fuel load by cleaning and burning during a time of year that could have a potential of high risk.”

Munshaw recommends the ‘Home Owners FireSmart Manual’, and offers some helpful suggestions for concerned property owners.

“Clean up your land so that if any fires start you can [stop] them,” explains Munshaw. “Not storing wood underneath your deck. Not having overhanging trees over your home. Cleaning out your gutters, always good things to watch for.”

Munshaw remembers the 2003 wildfire season, which was so destructive it led to the development of a national wildfire strategy in 2005.

That year, a particularly

hot and dry summer sparked dozens of fires that raged across British Columbia and Alberta. Communities in the Crowsnest Pass, Kamloops and Kelowna were threatened. Across Western Canada, hundreds of homes were lost, thousands of people were evacuated and almost $1 billion was spent fighting the fires.

“During 2003 I was actually working on the Cranbook fires,” says Munshaw. “I was protecting about 85 homes on a fire suppression crew for a couple weeks. During my time we did not lose any homes in that area.”

Jason McAleenan, wildfire ranger with ESRD says fire is an important part of the ecosystem. He says fire recycles nutrients back into the soil, facilitates reproduction in some plant species and creates habitats for wildlife.

“Fire acts as a cleansing agent for the forest. It reduces diseases, it can reduce insect infestations such as the pine beetle,” says McAleenan. “Fire can also help re-stratify the forest into different age classes, instead of a single unified age class.”

More information on the FireSmart program can be found at firesmartcanada. ca or firesmart.ca.

If you wish your property to receive a FireSmart assessment, or if you have any questions related to the FireSmart project, contact Steve Munshaw, Crowsnest Pass Fire Chief at (403) 562-8600 firechief@crowsnestpass.com or Richard Paton, FireSmart coordinator with ESRD at (403) 355-4072.
February 5th ~ Vol. 84 No. 5
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