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New program earmarks $10 million for wildfires

Sooke will aim to use funds for fuel mitigation
The Sooke Emergency Program Annual exercise on June 28 was a multi-agency exercise in fire suppression and the prevention of wildfires. (photo Geoff Spriggs)

The District of Sooke wants to access provincial funding to reduce wildfire risks.

The B.C. government recently announced the Community Resiliency Investment Program which takes a “holistic approach” to the problem, recognizing that wildfires recognize no difference between fires on municipal, First Nations or provincial Crown land, said Forest Minister Doug Donaldson

Under the program, communities can apply for up to $100,000 to reduce fire risks, without the requirement for cost sharing between the recipients of the money and the province as opposed to previous cost-sharing models for such funds.

The program earmarked $10 million for the current year’s program and up to $50 million over the next three years.

Sooke Fire Chief Kenn Mount said the municipality is in the process of applying for several grants and programs to mitigate wildfire risk.

“There are a whole host of new initiatives and the one we’re working on now is for the Sooke Emergency Program supplies and training for Emergency Support Services. After that, we’ll be applying for funds for flood mitigation and then for the emergency operations centre supports.”

The ESS grant application is for $25,000 that would be dedicated to items like cots, canopies, sleeping bags, additional trailers, and computers, printers, and other technical equipment.

As for wildfire mitigation, Mount acknowledged that it is a concern for Sooke, just as it is for a host of B.C. municipalities.

“We have a community wildfire protection plan that is gaining in popularity, but we have difficulty in terms of long-term costs of maintaining fuel mitigation. That’s where the extra funding would really help,” Mount said.

“There are a whole host of fuels, and the clearing of those fuels from the forest floor, the removal of ladder fuels, and strategies to develop a perimeter around our communities are key.”

Mount said that there has been a fair amount of interest on the current program with his firefighters at times going door to door to work with residents to fire-smart their homes.

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