Residents from Thunder Ridge in Fernie embrace Firesmart wildfire mitigation.  James Snell/The Free Press

Residents from Thunder Ridge in Fernie embrace Firesmart wildfire mitigation. James Snell/The Free Press

Fernie Fire Department hold Firesmart sign unveiling

The Fernie Fire Department held a Firesmart sign unveiling on Thunder Ridge at Fernie Alpine Resort on November 23. Through a Firesmart Board, the community underwent training for wildfire mitigation. Lieutenant Bruce Nelson of the Fernie Fire Department was happy for the turnout and another Fernie community coming under the banner of Firesmart.

“Firesmart has been one of our initiatives for three or four years,” he said. “It’s the wildfire-urban interface that we are concerned about. If there is a fire in the forest moving towards cities or towns.”

Nelson said that Firesmart is concerned with wildfires starting and gaining in intensity because of preventable factors, or a larger fire moving towards the community. Reducing fuel for a potential fire is key to Firesmart best practices.

“The fire will be less intense and easier to manage,” he said. “Basically fire needs fuel. Trees, structures, cardboard, firewood…the fire doesn’t care. It has lots of oxygen, so it just needs fuel.”

Homeowners can do their part to align themselves with wildfire mitigation, said Nelson.

“The basics are really cleanliness,” he explained. “So removing combustibles from close to your house.

Stacked firewood, combustible patio chairs, removing recycling that has piled up underneath your deck. Raking up your leaves, and also vegetation management.”

Nelson said that cedars and junipers that touch houses present added wildfire risk.

“They are really flammable,” he said. “Construction plays a big part, too. Cedar shakes are the worst. Tin roofs are really good. We look at the whole property when we do an assessment. If people are looking to renovate, there are things that they can look at. Maybe composite material for their deck rather than solid wood.”

Nelson said the Firesmart team identified an area for wildfire mitigation at Thunder Ridge. Wildfire mitigation was carried out under the supervision of a Firesmart Community Champion.

“We came and did an assessment and identified some priorities for them to reduce their fire risk,” he explained. “We made up a report from that walk-through with some recommendations and they said ‘yes, we want to follow through on this.’ This spring they organized a Firesmart work bee and had probably forty or fifty residents out, and we identified a stand of trees that is a common fire hazard to everybody. We came in and cleaned out all the dead branches and the underbrush and cut down a few dead tress and limbed everything up six feet.”

Nelson said that discarded cigarettes also pose a significant wildfire hazard.

“With the long, dry grass, we want to reduce that,” he said. “We don’t want a small grassfire turing into a significant incident.”