RDBN director Mark Fisher explains his proposal for a mobile wildfire protection trailer at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon Jan. 24. (Thom Barker photo)

RDBN director Mark Fisher explains his proposal for a mobile wildfire protection trailer at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon Jan. 24. (Thom Barker photo)

Regional District seeks to continue Firesmart rebates

Mark explains the background of Firesmart and a recent decision to apply for provincial funding

Higher levels of government continually create grant programs to support the work of local government.

Programs often cater to municipalities rather than regional districts, however, since they frequently ignore population density, as well as how services are provided in rural areas.

For example, regional districts rely on and fund third-party service providers instead of providing the service directly themselves, making it harder or impossible to support the service through grants.

In the case of the Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) program, when the program was initially rolled out, it did not account for huge geographical and logistical difference between municipalities and regional districts.

The CRI was introduced ‘by the provincial government in September 2018 … to help reduce wildfire risk and wildfire impacts in British Columbia’, according to the official British Columbia government website.

It is a great program, which was met with open arms by municipalities, but hesitation from regional districts.

It became clear that the same $100,000 given to a small community of 40 square kilometers with 300 people was neither fair nor effective for regional districts.

The RDBN, which spreads out over 73,000 square kilometres and has approximately 16,000 rural residents in seven sub jurisdictions (Electoral Areas) felt that because of these physical, as well as other operational challenges, it could not meet the program goals and therefore did not apply the first year of the program.

Regional Districts appealed to the province, and to its credit the province has since improved the program and has made it more appropriate for all local governments in B.C.

Thanks to several tweaks, more local governments are now using the funding for wildfire mitigation activities in an effective way.

At the November RDBN board meeting, the board voted to support an application for a CRI grant.

Staff requested the required board resolution of support in a report stating ‘the regional district is eligible to apply for a base of $200,000 and an additional $50,000 for each Electoral Area for eligible activities.’

Area A (Smithers/Telkwa Rural) director Stoney Stoltenberg reminds us that firesmarting has been around for a long time and that ‘individual awareness and assistance are the most needed aspects for the residents of the rural areas.’

If approved, the grant would allow the RDBN to continue with Firesmart rebates and education, and would provide funds for the development of a community wildfire resiliency plan.

Residents may still have to cover partial expenses for firesmarting activities on their own property, and there is still minimal general taxation that would go to RD staff time administering and integrating the program into the Protective Services Department work plans, but there is no direct (per $1,000 or property assessment) taxation for the program itself.

For more about Firesmart rebates, about Protective and Emergency Services, or your Regional District in general go to www.rdbn.bc.ca or www.rdks.bc.ca.

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