About 45 people turned out for Thunder Ridge’s first FireSmart working bee on Saturday. Kimberley Vlasic/The Free Press

Fernie ski hill community gets FireSmart

Thunder Ridge is the latest community to join the national fire prevention program

Linda Hunter has lived on the ski hill for two decades but in recent years she has become more aware of the threat of wildfires.

Just last summer, several fires flared up on Lizard Range near Fernie Alpine Resort (FAR), not far from the condos, which Hunter calls home.

On Saturday, the Thunder Ridge community took steps to reduce their wildfire risk, hosting a FireSmart working bee with about 45 people, including FAR staff.

“In the past couple of years, we’ve really noticed the risk of fire and seen how it affects other communities, so I think this is a great chance to make an impact here on the hill,” said Hunter, who is the Thunder Ridge community champion.

FireSmart is a national program that encourages shared responsibility for fire protection and aims to empower individuals, communities, and industry to directly reduce the risk from wildfires in or near populated areas.

There are currently 13 active FireSmart communities in Fernie, including three from the ski hill.

Hunter took part in a community champion workshop last fall and helped organize Saturday’s working bee.

“We’re going to be focused on the highest risk area that was identified when the fire department did their assessment last October and that’s right behind Thunder Ridge in between the Elk Chair and Thunder Ridge, and also the south side of Hobbits Trail,” she said.

Lt. Troy MacLachlan from the Fernie Fire Department explained why this area was important.

“That’s a dangerous area because one, the chairlift is right there and in the summer months you have a lot of the bikers… even mountain bikes now with disc brakes, how hot they get… if they fall in dry bush, that can become an issue,” he said.

“The reason they’re focusing in behind is because the brush on the ground, we want to get it off the ground, clean up the area so that fire can’t travel along the ground as easily.”

The Thunder Ridge community thanked local realtors Sandra Goode and Jason Andreola, and Tim Hortons for their donations of drinks and snacks to the working bee.

On Thursday, May 9, Fernie residents can learn how to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergency events, such as wildfires, at a free emergency preparedness workshop.

The event is being hosted by the City of Fernie at The Arts Station from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and includes a cash bar with all proceeds going to the Fernie Firefighters Association.

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