Lytton council urged to adopt interface fire prevention guidelines ahead of rebuild

Planning to rebuild Lytton

Rebuilding homes in Lytton to comply with new federal wildfire prevention recommendations would cost slightly more — one to two per cent — but could prevent another large-scale tragedy in the community that was devastated by fire last summer.

That’s what Lytton councillors were told this week when representatives from the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) made a presentation, suggesting the community pass bylaws that are in line with the latest National Research Council guidance on interface fire prevention.

“Lytton can be the very first community to adopt a building bylaw based on the new guide,” ICLR executive director Paul Kovacs told council on Wednesday.

“We are actively trying to promote a conversation where, after Lytton can show the leadership here, this can go to other communities.”

Lytton was devastated by fire on June 30. Most of the community’s buildings were damaged and many were completely destroyed. Two people died as flames swept through the village.

The new federal guidance includes suggestions for design and construction of buildings — roofing materials, siding, hazardous material storage — and the implementation of a community wildfire protection plan, like FireSmart BC.

Kovacs called it a “basic common sense” approach and said he’d like to see the measures implemented at the municipal level in “vulnerable areas” across Canada.

“We have done a very rigorous analysis of what it would cost to build back Lytton and include all of the features that we’ve described,” he said.

“To build back differently, and better and more resiliently, it will cost some more money — we think that the extra cost per home is about $5,000, so that will add about one per cent to the building costs. We think the benefits of building back better will be about 20 times that in avoided damage.”

The ICLR is an Ontario-based think tank funded government agencies from across Canada and the insurance industry.

Kovacs said he’d like to see the funding to pay for it shared by the three most impacted parties — homeowners, the municipality and insurers.

“This would be a way to not only advance Lytton and its protection, but we think the building bylaw could be a model that could be used by other communities in British Columbia and Alberta and elsewhere,” he said.

“Ultimately, we would be recommending to the province of B.C. and some others that this should become part of the building code and spread from Lytton to other communities.”

Lytton is still in the early stages of its rebuild effort. Debris removal is just getting underway and demolition permits will be available to village residents on Monday.

More Kamloops News