Thursday, 23 June 2011 15:22

Cypress Hills Alberta working at being FireSmart

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By Rose Sanchez — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Officials at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park-Alberta will be able to accomplish even more on the road to FireSmarting the park, especially around the Elkwater townsite.


Late last year, officials received a $650,000 grant from the Forest Resource Improvement Association of Alberta to help start FireSmart initiatives. Initially, the grant proposal had requested funding of close to $1 million. This year, project proposals were re-visited, and Cypress Hills Alberta received additional funding bringing the total FireSmart funding to almost $1 million.

The additional money will allow park officials to invest in a mobile wildfire sprinkling system, says Peter Swain, district manager for Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park-Alberta.

There will also be additional money put toward fuel reduction — a key component of FireSmarting an area. The main goal of the program is to reduce the likelihood a fire would destroy the infrastructure in and around the Elkwater townsite.

This work is accomplished through removing deadfall and dry debris in forest areas, especially near buildings and other infrastructure and thin

and prune trees for a certain distance around the townsite. Thinning and pruning trees also looks more pleasing than simply clear-cutting an area to remove the fire risk.

“We’ve done the work on our fuel reduction zone around the townsite,” says Swain. “Now, we need people inside Elkwater to FireSmart their own properties.”

So far as part of the program, every cottage in Elkwater has been assessed by park’s staff and given a certain number of points based on fire hazards around the cottages. The higher the number of points, the greater the fire hazard.

Park officials have been asking residents to FireSmart their properties the past few years, but not much work has been done. They are unsure as

to why, but hope to learn more soon.

A staff member is earning a master’s degree and part of his thesis is going to be studying why residents don’t FireSmart their cottages.

“It does come down to being a good neighbour,” says Swain. If residents fire smart their properties they are lessening the risk of fire spreading to their neighbours.

Cottage owners who do work to their properties to lessen fire risk can have their homes reassessed by park’s staff.

An open house was held recently at the visitor centre in Elkwater. It gave the local ranching community an opportunity to learn more about the FireSmart initiative and the activities planned for the summer months. Swain says area ranchers have a vested interest in what takes place in the park, because of their reliance upon the land for grazing.

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