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Cutting wildfire risk could cost upwards of $28 million

Saturday, April 10th, 2010 | 4:30 pm

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Preventative measures to help reduce the risk of more urban interface fires aren't going to be cheap. (File photo)

By Joe Fries

Cutting the risk of wildfire in the region could also cut a big hole in the public purse.

Two reports prepared for the Central Okanagan Regional District recommend mitigation efforts with a combined price tag in the neighbourhood of $28 million.

The first, called the Regional Parks Operational Wildfire Protection Plan, identifies and prioritizes fire risks in 42 of the region’s parks. Depending on the treatment applied – such as removing hazard trees and surface-level fuel – and the geography of the park, the cost to mitigate the threat could range from $8,000 to $14,000 per hectare. Completing all of the recommended work would cost an estimated $8.1 million.

Work in nine of those parks has been deemed to be a very high priority. The parks on that list include Mission Creek, Trepanier Creek Greenway and Rose Valley.

A staff report attached to the plan says the importance of such action was highlighted in 2009 when the Glenrosa fire torched 300 hectares, including a portion of the Gellatly Heritage Regional Park.

“Luckily, fuel management treatments had been initiated in that park and those treatments were widely credited with saving the caretakers house and the heritage log buildings on the property,” the staff report reads.

Similar to the first document, the Community Wildfire Protection Plan assesses the risk of wildfires in community interface areas and makes 38 recommendations to increase public safety.

Those recommendations run the gamut from better public education to providing more equipment to local volunteer fire departments.

In the North Westside Westside Fire Protection Area, the report recommends the purchase of a fire boat, while in the Joe Rich area it suggests the installation of several 24,000-gallon reservoirs and construction of a second fire hall.

On a larger scale, the document recommends the creation of a region-wide evacuation plan that could include opening up decommissioned roads and developing new subdivisions with multiple access points. It also suggests the regional district undertake fuel management on Crown land, which could cost in the range of $20 million.

The idea of community wildfire protection plans was launched by the province in 2004 and funded with $37 million. About $30 million has now been disbursed, and 178 plans are either completed or in the works.

Both of the CORD plans, which were received by the board at its regular meeting on Thursday, note that funding from senior levels of government is available to help pay the cost of the suggested work.

joe@kelowna.com
250-575-4303

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2 Responses to “Cutting wildfire risk could cost upwards of $28 million”

  1. C.Smith says:
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    This seems less than the cost relating to the major fire as we had in 2009.

  2. Geoff says:
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    Prevention is always cheaper !

    Off season burning of surface fuel would be the best cure for this issue.

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link