As another wildfire season approaches, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is prioritizing its mitigation efforts.
At its March 30 meeting, the SLRD board of directors voted to adopt new Community Wildfire Resiliency Plans for both Electoral Area C, encompassing the area surrounding the Village of Pemberton from WedgeWoods to D’Arcy, and Area D, which includes the areas of Porteau Cove, Black Tusk and the Upper Squamish Valley.
Created by B.A. Blackwell and Associates, the two plans have laid out 40 recommendations for Area C and 36 in Area D, and are designed to improve the region's preparedness in case of a wildfire in the SLRD.
Both plans shared some common recommendations, such as encouraging residents to install reflective addresses, increasing training for local volunteer fire departments (VFD), installing rooftop sprinklers in high-risk areas and having stronger enforcement of fire bans in the region.
The regional district will also take fighting fires to the media front with a campaign of ads and highway signage warning people of fire risk.
Tourists coming to the Sea to Sky to camp are one of the most significant risks, as unattended campfires can and have led to some of the region's fires. It is hoped more signs and ads warning of fire danger will encourage people to be more attentive to fire bans and safe campfire practices.
While there were some commonalities between both plans, there were also some specific recommendations for each electoral area.
In Area C, this includes formalizing a fire service agreement in D'Arcy and Devine with the Birken VFD and N'Quatqua VFD. This would make it so resources, expertise and manpower could be used more efficiently in the event of a wildfire.
“It's a way of legitimizing helping each other. You know, for workers’ compensation, all that kind of stuff. There's no actual money exchanged. Like one department goes to help another, or vice versa. It's just a mutual-type thing,” said Area C Director Russell Mack, who served 18 years as the chief of the Pemberton Fire Rescue Service prior to his election in 2014.
“They're very valuable, obviously, because individually, we only have so much equipment, but when we add it all together, we end up with quite a lot of equipment and a lot more manpower. And that's the important thing. I think it's very beneficial for everybody.”
It was also recommended that different levels of government increase their coordination around fire bans and enforcement, with the Village of Pemberton and Lil’wat Nation the focus for this objective.
The plan also recommends that the regional district develop strategies for the evacuation of Blackwater Road and Birkenhead Lake Estates, which currently lack any community emergency plan and are particularly at risk due to only having one forestry road for access.
In Area D, some of the specific recommendations include installing water cisterns in areas that lack water supply for firefighting like the Britannia Beach art gallery, organizing joint training for the Garibaldi and Britannia Beach VFD with the BC Wildfire Service, and possibly establishing a new VFD in the Upper Squamish Valley to boost the capacity of the area against wildfires.
If you would like to learn more about the new wildfire plans you can find more information on the regional district's website at slrd.bc.ca.