Wildfire jackpot: Rossland to receive federal fire protection dollars

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
November 12th, 2009

Rossland got tossed some candy from the federal government’s spending parade this week with the announcement of a $5 million dollar grant for the Kootenay area to help execute various wildfire protection plans in the region. The grant itself is a combination of the federal Community Adjustment Fund and BC’s provincial Job Opportunities Program.

“The Program is a partnership of the Regional Districts of Central Kootenay, Kootenay Boundary and East Kootenay and is aimed at protecting and safeguarding communities from the risk of wildfire,” explained Regional District of Central Kootenay Chair, Gary Wright. “We are grateful to both the Provincial and Federal Governments for supporting our efforts with this funding. It will allow us to make a significant contribution to the safety of our communities by treating high priority interface areas.”

As previously reported here, over the last year the City of Rossland has been through a fairly extensive process of developing a community wildfire protection plan. Thanks to that pro-active work, our forest-encircled city will be one of just three communities in the RDKB receiving funding from this grant.

“The RDKB isn’t as advanced as the Central and East Kootenay, so the majority of the money will be going to the East Kootenay and Central Kootenay,” explained Margeurite Rotvold, chair of the RDKB. “We have three areas in Kootenay/Boundary that had plans already in place: Rossland, Christina Lake and Big White.”

The three Kootenay regional districts partnered together on this program, combining their resources and efforts to make a bigger impact. This is second of such partnership projects among the districts in recent years that have proved fruitful for the region. Those involved credit the cooperation among districts for this success.

“There were some real benefits in working together with the three districts,” added Rotvold. “The first project we did together was doing a carbon reduction process in partnership with CBT. We won an award of excellence at the UBCM for that project. I think because of the success of these two projects you’ll see a lot more similar partnerships coming down the pipe in the future.”

The original application from the districts was for $10 million to complete the wildfire plans of which $5 million was awarded this past Monday.

Exactly how much will be going to whom is now in the process of being worked out. John Maclean, CAO of the RDKB, explained in detail this week the process of breaking down who gets what from the deal, stressing that these numbers are still very preliminary.

“Rossland identified 39 hectares that could be treated. We can only work on Crown and public land; we can’t work on private land. We’re estimating that is going to cost about $5,500 per hectare. We’re going to be spending about $215,000 in Rossland. It could be a little higher than that, but that’s what our budget is based on.”

The next steps in the process will be officially entering into the contract with the Federal government, most likely later this week. There will then be a call for proposals from groups that are interested in completing the work.

“We hope to hire one firm that is going to coordinate all of these activities throughout the regional districts,” added McLean. “We want one firm that will hire the workers, assemble the required equipment, do the required training and work with the province to get the necessary permits to go onto crown land and do this work. Basically they’ll look after the whole program for us.”

One of the secondary goals of the program (after reducing wildfire risks) is creating job opportunities for forestry sector employees. The Kootenay area has been particularly hard hit by the downturn in the forestry industry and this program “will be employing displaced forest workers to complete the work,” explained Rotvold. “Providing an opportunity for local people to get back to work through this fuel mitigation program is certainly a huge positive.”



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