FireSmart is living with and managing for wildfire on our landscape. There are many levels of action throughout the government and community, but FireSmart is best known for the actions individuals can take to protect their homes and neighbourhoods from wildfires. They include:
- Understanding fire risk
- Making your house more fire-resistant
- Maintaining and choosing fire-resistant landscaping around your house
Fire Risk in Whitehorse
Fire is a reality in the boreal ecosystem in and around Whitehorse. For millennia, fire was a natural occurrence that helped recycle nutrients and encourage diverse species.
As the population and structures near wildland areas increased, so did fire suppression. Our forests got older and older, and are now dominated by dry, mature conifers, and littered with deadfall. Wildfire risk has therefore increased.
Our responsibility is to avoid starting wildfires, and to create fire resistant homes and yards.
Why Homes Burn
Homes that burn during wildfires typically ignite because many embers and sparks blow onto yards and houses and ignite flammable materials. Many people believe that homes cannot be protected in the case of large wildfires, but evidence shows otherwise.
Scientists examined the Fort McMurray fire and believe the fire spread so quickly into areas with homes because embers found plenty of material to ignite. Moreover, some homes that were fire resistant did not burn, while others around them did.
FireSmart principles developed by Partners in Protection Association recommend improvements in four zones.
Your home and the area within 1.5 metres should not contain any easily combustible materials. Improvements in this area have the greatest impact in increasing your home’s wildfire protection. Home maintenance and building material choice will affect your home’s fire resistance.
The area 1.5 to 10 metres from your home is typically your immediate yard. Clean up, maintenance and improvements in your yard will help prevent the spread of fire into neighbourhoods, and reduce your home’s vulnerability to fire. Fire-resistant landscaping will also help.
The zone 10-30 metres from the house is the yard of a larger country residential lot. This is often forested. You can have direct control over the fuel load surrounding you by clearing deadfall and ladder fuels and by thinning trees to a minimum of three metres.
Zone 3: Neighbourhoods and Greenbelt
Zone 3 refers to areas 30-100 metres from homes, typically greenbelts and forested areas, but also on large acreages. Work in this area is similar to Zone 2, but often requires community collaboration and can be funded by the Government of Yukon