The community wildfire resiliency plans for the Regional District of Nanaimo’s electoral areas have been completed and endorsed by the electoral area services committee.
The plans provide suggested recommendations tailored to each electoral area. Area B’s will replace the community wildfire protection plan that was completed in 2008, which did not include Mudge and DeCourcy islands or the outlying islands as they do not fall under the fire improvement district serviced by the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department (GVFD).
The plans, which were developed by Diamond Head Consulting and reviewed by the electoral areas’ fire departments, rated wildfire threats on public land and analyzed the wildland-urban interface (WUI), where the majority of people live and where most infrastructure is situated. It’s also where the most sources of ignition are. Most of Area B is considered to be in the WUI.
The CWRP rates Area B as moderate to high wildfire risk, the areas of high risk mainly in scattered forests that could lead to crown fires as well as on steep slopes. Specific areas identified as being at the most risk were Mudge, DeCourcy, the Gabriola Village-southwest and Gabriola Whalebone neighbourhoods.
With 76 per cent of the land Area B is situated in privately owned, many of the 30 recommendations in the Area B plan are related to education and support for homeowners to implement FireSmart principles on their properties as well as considering regulations such as for parkland use and a burning ban bylaw. Currently, the GVFD regulates burning in the fire improvement district while Mudge and DeCourcy fall under the provincial burn regulation. High-priority actions listed include developing an Area B-specific community FireSmart and resiliency committee, continuing to develop a fuel management plan in 707 Community Park, initiating a region-wide interagency fire response and preparedness working group and exploring a program to reduce or eliminate green waste tipping fees for FireSmart projects at the regional landfill. Area B’s CWRP notes resident feedback received during development of the plan indicated that tipping fees were a major impediment to implementing fire-safe landscaping practices. A number of the recommendations are eligible for funding through the Union of BC Municipalities’ community resilience investment program.
“The action plan is more like a menu focused around FireSmart principles,” Diamond Head’s Matt Shields told the electoral area services committee on May 5. That menu includes hiring a permanent FireSmart coordinator to work across the RDN, establish a policy to assess wildfire risk levels on RDN property and complete FireSmart landscape demonstration projects.
RDN staff said going forward the RDN will connect with fire departments and other partners to discuss priorities, look at grant funding options and incorporate items into the 2023-27 financial plan.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder