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Grant reduces Sooke’s wildfire risks

Funding will assist with education, planning, inter-agency cooperation and emergency planning
A wildfire in July 2017 on Mount Manuel Quimper destroyed more than a hectare of forest land. The fire was likely human-caused. (File - Sooke Fire Rescue)

The District of Sooke has received a significant chunk of change to further ongoing efforts to reduce wildfires.

A grant of $139,385 is part of $4.3 million in funding the B.C. government has earmarked for 45 local governments and First Nations in the Coastal Fire Centre to support wildfire-risk-reduction initiatives and help keep communities safe.

The funding will assist with education, planning, inter-agency cooperation, emergency planning, and FireSmart activities in residential areas.

Ashlene Aktarian, the FireSmart coordinator for the District of Sooke, said the funding is greatly appreciated, especially considering that Sooke is at a higher risk of wildfires.

“Being FireSmart is about co-existing with wildfires,” she said. “It’s no secret that the fire seasons are starting earlier and running longer, and we’re experiencing more aggressive fire behaviour. We’re already heavily into wildfire season.”

Sooke’s FireSmart program continues free FireSmart assessments for Sooke residents, said Aktarian.

One of the most significant initiatives of the new funding will be updating the community’s wildfire protection plan.

“The current plan is 10 years old, so that will be a primary focus for next year,” Aktarian said. Another critical focus is educating the public about the FireSmart program and how people can reduce the risk of wildfire.

Last year’s devastating fire season highlighted the importance of implementing FireSmart activities around B.C. communities, the BC Ministry of Forests said in a media release announcing the funding.

Mitigating wildfire responsibility is a responsibility the provincial government shares with local governments, First Nations, industry, stakeholders and individual British Columbians, the release stated.

“As we saw in Logan Lake, it can make a big difference,” said Katrine Conroy, B.C. Minister of Forests. “In Budget 2022, our government committed $90 million in community grants to complete FireSmart initiatives and fuel-management activities to help safeguard homes and communities from wildfire threats.”

The Union of B.C. Municipalities administer the FireSmart Community Funding and Supports program through grant applications processed in partnership with the Ministry of Forests and the First Nations Emergency Services Society of B.C.

Eligible applicants can apply for up to $50,000 for areas facing a lower risk of wildfires and up to $150,000 for communities facing higher risk, with funding for up to 100 per cent of the cost of wildfire reduction initiatives.

For more information, please go online

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