All Hands on Deck When it Comes to Preventing Wildfire

Invermere dedicates resources to safeguard the community

3 minute read

Invermere dedicates resources to safeguard the community

“We’re all in this together.” It may be the refrain of a song, but it’s also how Anne-Sophie Corriveau feels when it comes to preventing wildfire. As FireSmart Coordinator for the District of Invermere, one of her main tasks is to get residents involved in hands-on activities that lower the possibility and impacts of raging flames.

“We’re in a high-risk area,” she says. “We’re surrounded by forests and we have dry summers—very hot and windy—so there is high potential for wildfire.”

After pursuing FireSmart work for a while, Invermere hired a designated coordinator in fall 2021 with support of the Trust and the Province of BC. One of Corriveau’s objectives is to engage with residents. Through activities like presentations, a booth at the farmers’ market and an open house at the fire hall, she shares FireSmart principles and explains why it’s critical that everyone helps out.

She offers one-on-one property assessments that help residents identify specific actions and upgrades they can take on their property to reduce wildfire risks, and then homeowners can complete the recommended prevention changes with financial aid of the District’s rebate program. They can also take advantage of the community’s yearly yard waste pickup, which reduces the amount of fuels left lying around.

With Trust and Province support, the District also undertakes fuel management efforts. For example, in spring 2022, local firefighters partnered with BC Wildfire Service crews to burn a couple of grassy fields, since old, dead grass that builds up over the years can easily ignite. This important cross-training exercise also honed firefighters’ skills on wildland fires to be prepared for the 2022 wildfire season.

Corriveau also supported the idea of a local high school student, who wanted to focus on FireSmart for his capstone graduation project. “Together, we built this project of doing grass ignition,” Corriveau says. Additionally, the student assembled friends, family and other volunteers to thin and prune some trees in a forest adjacent to the school, plus clear its floor of fine debris.

Other fuel management projects are also taking place to build wildfire resiliency. One will be in the steep Toby Creek Canyon. Another, close to downtown, will make fire there less likely, plus its highly visible location makes it “an opportunity to engage with residents to explain to them why this kind of work is so important.”

It’s this community involvement that really stands out to Corriveau. A major goal of her position is to “bring more FireSmart awareness to the people,” she says. “The key goal of FireSmart is to help people realize that they have the power and also the responsibility to do their part to lower wildfire risk.”

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