Kelowna's new wildfire resiliency plan includes developing a municipal evacuation plan

City's wildfire plan updated

The City of Kelowna has adopted its new community wildfire resiliency plan.

The five-year plan, which includes 43 recommendations, is a requirement of the provincial government in order for the city to qualify for Community Resiliency Investment grant funding.

This is the fourth wildfire plan the city has produced since the devastating Okanagan Mountain Park Fire in August of 2003.

Urban forestry technician Tara Bergeson told council Monday the city was able to complete a full review of the wildfire development permit process and forest fuel treatment of more than 125 hectares of forests across the city over the past five years.

Over the past year, Bergeson says they have completed analysis of the city's current situation with respect to climate, development policy, forest conditions and other factors.

She says the city remains at risk due to location and climate.

"We live in a fire dependent ecosystem which means our region has historically seen frequent, light intensity fires after which native vegetation thrives, invasive or destructive insects and diseases are controlled and excessive fine fuel buildup is eliminated," said Bergeson.

"Due to a lengthy period of fire suppression, our ecosystem requires proactive and strategic management to both return to, and maintain a healthy environment."

Due to shifting fire behaviour, she says new strategies are needed with respect to fuel management in grassland areas, and added improved outreach initiatives are needed to improve awareness of FireSmart initiatives.

Through the analysis, Bergeson says 16 high, 20 moderate and seven low priority items are recommended as part of the new wildfire resiliency strategy.

"Some of the key recommendations include completion of a municipal evacuation plan, assessing further policy and legislation options related to development, completing a FireSmart assessment for all critical infrastructure as well as backup power options, completing a community water delivery assessment and maintaining or expanding or expanding our current fuel mitigation activities."

Work is already underway on the critical infrastructure and water delivery assessment, evacuation planning and fuel mitigation work.

"We will review outstanding priority items against projected timelines, cost, feasibility and anticipated impact and develop a work plan for this five year document."

Bergeson says one of the previous initiatives, a neighbourhood chipping program resulted in almost 100 metric tonnes of hazardous materials being collected from over 250 homes across the city over the course of two-and-a-half months.

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