Submitted by FireSmart Invermere committee
The FireSmart Community Meeting held November 5th at the Columbia Valley Centre was well-attended by 65 keen and concerned residents. Three speakers gave informative presentations on the importance of preparedness to reduce losses from the very real threat of interface wildfires in our community.
Don Mortimer, consultant and owner of Fireline Consulting, presented Invermere’s new Wildfire Emergency Pre Plan and the challenges that local firefighters face in preparing for and responding effectively to wildfires that threaten Invermere properties. Mr. Mortimer gave a better understanding of why effective interface wildfire response depends on the FireSmart mitigation that property owners have implemented on individual properties and neighbourhoods. His presentation included eye-opening dash cam footage of residents being evacuated from Fort McMurray in 2016. The footage showed real-time ember ignitions quickly becoming spot fires that initiated the mass destruction.
Alan Westhaver, consultant and owner of FireWise Environmental Consulting, presented important lessons discovered from fire disasters of the past. Alan showed why some homes ignite and others don’t. He taught the basic FireSmart principles that are proven to reduce the risk of losses to neighbourhoods. Starting, most importantly, with a 1.5 metre non-combustible zone that extends around the entire home to reduce the chance of wind-blown embers igniting materials close to our homes.
Our local Wildfire Officer, Steve Levitt with BC Wildfire Services, presented on the importance and need for motivated groups of residents to take grassroots actions within their neighborhoods to reduce their risk of wildfire losses.
Residents had lots of good questions answered by the speakers and Invermere’s Fire Chief, Jason Roe.
Attendees were greeted by Kathleen O’Neill and Ben Mitchell-Banks, co-chairs of the FireSmart Canada Recognized Community of CastleRock Estates, who lent their time and knowledge to enhance the event.
If you are interested in becoming a FireSmart Community Champion who starts the conversation in your neighborhood, please contact Invermere Fire Chief Jason Roe at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are outside of the District of Invermere boundary, please contact Wildfire Officer Steve Levitt at Steve.Levitt@gov.bc.ca. A free workshop will be held for interested participants.
The District of Invermere extends a big thank you to the speakers, volunteers and attendees for making this such a great evening. And to Kicking Horse Coffee for providing delicious coffee for the event. The meeting was a good start to educating our community about the risks of wildfire and the easy and economical actions we can take in our own neighborhoods to reduce losses.
Thanks to Jenna Milne for putting this event together for the community, and District staff member Robert Hall for his technical support. This won’t be the end of the District’s FireSmart activities.
“We want to encourage people to become community leaders when it comes to FireSmart,” says DOI Mayor Al Miller. “We want to continue on our events, because prevention is the only way to tackle it.”