Oliver has hired its first FireSmart coordinator, a position that acts as a liaison between FireSmart BC and the Town of Oliver to bring education and FireSmart principles to the town.
Kai Kaplan has been hired as the town’s first FireSmart coordinator and says that they are honoured to be in the role representing the Town of Oliver, the Oliver Fire Department and the community as a whole.
Kaplan thinks they bring a fresh pair of eyes and insight to the position. Originally from Barrie, Ontario, Kaplan has been a member of the Meaford Fire Department, is currently a member of the Oliver Fire Department and was educated in urban forestry.
Kaplan thinks their knowledge about urban forestry in particular will be beneficial in the FireSmart coordinator position because a central concern of wildfires is the “wildland urban interface”.
After moving to BC, they also gained valuable experience working with a natural resource group focusing on FireSmarting and gained first hand experience in FireSmarting parks and recreational areas, engaging in activities such as pruning trees, cleaning up underbrush and debris from different areas.
Since this is the first time Oliver has had a FireSmart coordinator, Kaplan has to pave the way for FireSmart principles in the town.
Kaplan explained they have been reaching out to many fellow FireSmart coordinators in and around the area in addition to basing the program off of FireSmart BC and FireSmart Canada which they note have tons of resources and information available.
“I've had the opportunity to already meet with the Penticton FireSmart coordinator and the RDOS FireSmart coordinator and they've been extremely helpful in giving me some guidance into the programs they have been implementing over the past few years.”
This is helpful because they're bigger areas that have more resources, and they provide some direction for where things should go for Oliver.
When it comes to Oliver, it all starts with education and that is exactly where Kaplan plans to start. “I'm going to focus on educating the public on what it means to be FireSmart and how to implement FireSmart principles around their home.
“I'm the person who people could come to to ask questions, and get some guidance on how to best protect and defend their home when it comes to a wildfire season,” Kaplan explained.
They further noted that because of such an unprecedented wildfire season this summer, which is still active, “I think it raised a lot of awareness for FireSmart.”
“I believe it's at the forefront of a lot of people's minds, and understanding the true impact wildfire can have on homes and communities and seeking ways to better prepare the community and help support wildland firefighters and defending these areas”
Kaplan explained that there are many things people can do, simple things around the home to more expensive and larger projects that can make a home much more defensible in the face of wildfires.
They gave the example of construction materials used on homes as something people may not consider.
“One of the major things is the composition of the roof. If people are considering getting a new roof, or if there's any new construction, it's really important to choose a roof that's fire resistant.” Explaining that asphalt shingles are one material that is in FireSmart Canada’s Class A rating, which is the best rating for roofing materials.
“When a wildfire happens 90 per cent of the reason for home ignition is due to embers. So when a wildfire kicks up a whole bunch of embers and they get carried into neighborhoods and the embers land in different places, they're the majority of the reasons why homes can be ignited.
“A roof has so much surface area, especially if it's a flatter roof with a lesser pitch that embers will land on and stay as opposed to bouncing off.”
FireSmarting a roof is a larger and more costly consideration, but if your roof has to be replaced anyway it is important to keep in mind.
Other things to consider for people renovating their homes or building a new one is the siding material. Kaplan clarified that choosing a composite material as opposed to vinyl is a huge benefit. “If it reaches its ignition temperature, composite siding has a much higher temperature it has to reach before it will ignite whereas vinyl will go up very quickly.”
Kaplan explained that another FireSmarting consideration for your house is the venting. “Any sort of vents around their home they can get composite covers for them. So that way embers can't get into the vents and enter the home that way.
“This is especially case if there's any attic spaces because that's a very prone area for embers to enter if the venting system to the home is not covered properly.”
In addition to taking FireSmart principles into account when considering the construction materials for the house itself, all around the bottom of the home should have non combustible clearance from the ground up to where the siding on the home is. If there are any sort of plants or other combustible material around the house a fire can travel from the ground up to the siding.
Kaplan explained that, although they are not from here, the community of Oliver has been very welcoming and they have fallen in love with the Okanagan and the Oliver area.
“I think it's a wonderful community. I've made so many connections in this town. I feel like I'm very welcomed here. I'll walk down the street and almost everyone I walk past I can wave and say hello and know most of them by name, which is absolutely amazing. I feel so welcomed here and being part of the fire department as well . . . I feel like Oliver is very similar to an outdoor playground, everywhere you turn there's some recreational activity that can be enjoyed and explored.”
If people have any questions or would like to reach out to Kaplan, they can directly email [email protected]. People can also go to the Town of Oliver website where there is a FireSmart tab for additional FireSmart information.