Belcarra looks to reduce wildfire risk

images supplied

Following a spate of devastating fires around B.C., the Village of Belcarra is looking to making the community more resilient to wildfires.

Regulations on landscaping as well as on the types of materials that can be used for roof or siding are under consideration.

“The policy is meant to guide the future development of Belcarra,” said professional forester Louis Orieux of B.A. Blackwell and Associates, “to guide and manage the future development of the community, to create resiliency, to protect lives, structures and resources.”

Local news that matters to you

No one covers the Tri-Cities like we do. But we need your help to keep our community journalism sustainable.

Research completed after the 2016 Fort McMurray and 2021 Lytton fires suggested that the potential of certain materials to ignite played a critical role in whether or not the blaze spread through the town.

“The big thing is these embers,” said Orieux, who is also a certified Local FireSmart Representative, explained to council on Feb. 6. “They can travel over two kilometres and they can land close to 1,000 embers per square metre. They land on the roof, they hit the sides of the building, they get into cracks and crevices. It’s really the main thing that does a lot of ignition.”

In 2021, B.A. Blackwell and Associates completed the municipality’s Wildfire Resiliency Plan, which outlined wildfire risk across the community. In many cases, the threat on public land that surrounds forest is moderate or higher, said Orieux.

In order to mitigate the risk, the forestry consultant company’s plan involves improving the “defensible space” around structures, which can be done with fire-resistant material selections — cedar shingles are no longer in vogue — and landscaping — deciduous trees are much less flammable than conifers.

The goal, Orieux said, is to limit the fire’s ability to move from vegetation to structure. The company is suggesting a 1.5 metre non-combustible zone around structures that would be free of vegetation.

“The embers will hit the side of the structure, fall down and accumulate,” he explained. “There, they have nothing to ignite.”

While community members may get visions of a “scorched earth” policy — “remove everything that can burn; pave it all,” — Orieux said there’s more to it. “That’s not really the goal or intent. It can be done quite aesthetically pleasing.”

The contractor is proposing two levels of adherence to the policies. Level 1 is a full policy implementation and would cover new development anywhere in the municipality, as well as renovations that qualify in Farrer Cove.

“There’s a lot more risk associated with the properties there,” he said. “Homes and structures are really embedded into the forest.”

Level 2 is a partial policy implementation, and overlaps with Level 1 in the south end of town with Belcarra and Coombe. All new developments would have to comply with the full set of policies, while qualifying renovations would need to comply just with roofing, siding and vegetation policies.

“It’s a little more of a developed area and so that will slowly bring things up with renovation,” he said. “As homes are knocked down for new development, then they’re built to full compliance.”

B.A. Blackwell and Associates recommendations:

● First, determine if the property will have to align fully or partially with policies,
● Then, before any development happens, a Wildfire Hazard Assessment would be done by a professional, with a development permit being issued as the next step;
● Once development is complete, a professional will return to complete another inspection to see if recommendations from the first visit as well as the DPA policies were followed;
● The professional would then write a letter of inspection for the property.

The contractor is also suggesting any conditions from the Wildfire Hazard Assessment be tied to the title so they would apply in the future no matter who owns the property.

The Wildfire Interface DPA Policy development is set to continue as just a part of Belcarra’s wildfire risk mitigation.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top