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Grants reduce Okanagan wildfire risks

$3.5 million directed to Kamloops Fire Centre and First Nations
Murray Rankin, B.C. minister of indigenouse relations and reconcilitation, announces grants to reduce wildfire risks at the Kalamalka See Orchard Tuesday, April 19. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

The B.C. government has provided more than $3.5 million in grants to 26 local governments and First Nations in the Kamloops Fire Centre to support wildfire-risk-reduction initiatives and help keep communities safe.

These Community Resiliency Investment (CRI) grants are part of more than $13 million provided to 107 recipients throughout B.C. following the latest application intake in the program’s FireSmart Community Funding and Supports category.

Among the many recipients, Vernon is receiving $150,000 to assist with education, planning, interagency co-operation, emergency planning, FireSmart activities in residential areas. Spallumcheen is granted $35,000 to assist with education, planning.

“People across the Thompson Okanagan experienced a terrible fire season last year, and while some wildfires are natural, we all want to do our part to reduce the danger people face,” said Harwinder Sandhu, Vernon-Monashee MLA. “By providing these grants to communities, we’re working to keep people safe and protect the infrastructure we count on.”

The FireSmart Community Funding and Supports category of the CRI program helps fund FireSmart-related initiatives, including priority fuel-management projects on provincial Crown land and private land. First Nations and local governments can use the money to complete wildfire-risk-reduction and prevention activities, including those on public, reserve and private land.

“Last year’s devastating fire season highlighted the importance of implementing FireSmart activities around B.C. communities and, as we saw in Logan Lake, it can make a big difference,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. “In Budget 2022, our government committed $90 million in community grants to complete FireSmart initiatives and fuel-management activities that will help safeguard homes and communities from wildfire threats.”

The Union of BC Municipalities administers the FireSmart Community Funding and Supports program. It processes grant applications in partnership with the Ministry of Forests and the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of British Columbia. Eligible applicants facing lower wildfire risk can apply for as much as $50,000, while applicants facing demonstrated higher wildfire risk can apply for as much as $150,000. Communities can apply for funding to cover as much as 100 per cent of the cost of their wildfire-risk-reduction projects.

“For people across the southern Interior, wildfires are something we live with regularly, and with that lived experience, we know they’re worsening with climate change,” said Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen. “We all need to be better prepared to protect ourselves, our communities and the vital services we rely on, and we know that FireSmart projects do exactly that. I’m happy our government is supporting this work happening across our region.”

Mitigating wildfire threats is a shared responsibility of the provincial government, local governments, First Nations, industry, stakeholders and individual British Columbians. The CRI program helps increase community resiliency by funding activities that promote FireSmart education, planning and opportunities for partnerships through regional FireSmart committees.

Funding is also provided to the following:

• Central Okanagan Regional District: $250,000

• Kamloops: $139,829

• Kelowna: $149,045

• Merritt: $50,596

• Penticton: $150,000

• West Kelowna: $149,616

• Columbia Shuswap Regional District: $250,000

• Cook’s Ferry Indian Band: $141,975

• Lillooet: $77,440

• Logan Lake: $202,046

• Peachland: $150,000

• Lil’wat Nation: $149,750

• Little Shuswap Lake Band: $150,000

• Lower Nicola Indian Band: $44,460

• Lytton First Nation: $118,956

• Okanagan-Similkameen Regional District: $463,946

• Shackan Indian Band: $108,830

• Siska Band: $51,040• Skeetchestn Indian Band: $150,000

• Skuppah Indian Band: $65,830

• Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality: $121,310

• T’it’q’et: $148,760

• Upper Nicola Band: $92,080

• Xaxli’p First Nation: $14,525

READ MORE: Wildfire training brings 300 firefighters to Penticton this weekend

READ MORE: Human-caused wildfire near northern B.C. community now out of control


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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

20-year-Morning Star veteran
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