COQUITLAM, B.C., May 17, 2022 – While the risk of fires in Coquitlam’s forests heightens with warmer and dryer weather, wildfire preparation has become a year-round activity for the City.
Over the past several months, Coquitlam has been implementing high-priority actions from its new Community Wildfire Resiliency Plan (CWRP) while participating in regional efforts such as the Northeast Sector FireSmart Program and multi-agency training and planning.
Together, the City’s local and regional activities are providing a comprehensive wildfire protection strategy for the community, Council heard in a staff update yesterday.
Wildfire Resiliency Plan Rolls Out
Adopted in late 2021, the CWRP outlines 43 actions aimed at reducing wildfire risk and improving the City’s response and recovery if fires do occur. Activities include public education, adopting FireSmart™ wildfire prevention best practices, improving coordination with other municipalities, joint planning and training with other agencies, and managing forest fuels – such as dry debris –in parks and green spaces.
Some CWRP activities are already in progress and others will roll out over the next few years. The City has been making progress on about 22 high-priority activities, including:
- Posting the plan and associated maps at www.coquitlam.ca/cwrp
- Encouraging residents to engage in the Northeast Sector FireSmart Program’s public education and wildfire home hazard assessments
- Developing procedures for removing debris after taking down hazardous trees
- Incorporating wildfire risk assessments in the City’s upcoming review of critical infrastructure
- Working with utility companies to reduce risk through maintenance and vegetation management
- Participating in inter-agency training
More information about the CWRP can be found at www.coquitlam.ca/cwrp.
A Regional Approach to a Regional Problem
Given that wildfires don’t heed jurisdictional boundaries, the City actively pursues a cooperative approach with other municipalities and agencies – including its participation in the Northeast Sector FireSmart Program with Port Coquitlam, Anmore and Belcarra.
The program, funded through a joint $496,900 provincial FireSmart Economic Recovery Fund grant received in 2021, has already reached 7,000 homes (2,000 more than its goal) with door-to-door information on wildfire preparedness. Free home assessments continue throughout 2022 and can be booked through www.northeastsector.ca.
Coquitlam Fire/Rescue (CFR) staff also attend monthly meetings of the Watershed Wildfire Strategic Partners Working Group, formed last year after a request by Coquitlam Council. With members including Metro Vancouver Watershed Protection, BC Wildfire Service and Fire Chiefs, the group focuses on regional cooperation, cross-training and joint response, with a tabletop exercise planned for May 25.
In March, CFR staff attended the inaugural virtual Metro Vancouver Wildland and Interface Regional Workshop, hosted by Metro Vancouver’s Security and Emergency Preparedness team and focusing on the impacts of climate change. The workshop is planned to be held annually.
CFR activities this spring also include training in April on Coquitlam Lake by the department’s water rescue team, and tours of the Coquitlam watershed over the next month, in collaboration with Metro Vancouver, to familiarize firefighters with area facilities, structures and access.
Coquitlam will also benefit from enhanced provincial funding for wildfire protection in Crown lands and watersheds, through existing resource sharing agreements.
Information for Residents
Human activity, such as campfires and discarded cigarettes, continues to be the leading cause of wildfires. People who live near wooded areas face higher risk and are urged to prepare their homes:
- Keep combustible materials at least 1.5 metres from the home, and piles of firewood at least 10 metres away;
- Keep your home’s roof and gutters free of leaves and pine needles, and prune all branches that hang over the roof;
- Choose fire-safe vegetation and space it to prevent a continuous line of vegetation leading to the home;
- Remove all dead/dry vegetation and trim tree limbs two to three meters from the ground;
- Choose non-combustible roofing, building and landscape materials;
- Know where your home’s gas, electric and water shut-offs are; and
- Have a wildfire escape plan.
More tips can be found at www.coquitlam.ca/interfacefire.
City of Coquitlam