FireSmart is a shared responsibility. It is about living in a fire-prone ecosystem and taking the necessary steps to protect your family, property and community from wildfire. Over time, FireSmart principles have shown that they are effective at reducing the risk related to losses in the most extreme wildfire conditions. With a few simple steps, you can contribute to increasing your property, neighbourhood and community resiliency to wildfire. Click on the different headings below to find more information on how you and your community can become more FireSmart!
- Is My Home at Risk? - Wildland Urban Interface
The Wildland Urban Interface, or the WUI, is the zone where human-made structures and other developments meet and intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels. In wildfire resiliency, we talk a lot about the WUI, because homes and structures in this zone are at the greatest risk of being affected by a wildfire.
The Office of the Fire Commissioner has compiled a Fire Hazard Mapping System for BC. These graduated levels are symbolized by colour on the RDN FireHazard Map.
If you reside in a 'Red' or 'Orange' zone, the RDN recommends you read the FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual. There are many simple and inexpensive harm reduction measures you can take. Prevention and knowledge are the best protection for your family and home. This information is provided by the BC Wildfire Service, and is under review and may be incomplete or need updating as a result of new forest harvesting or development activity. The RDN will be working with the Province and local fire departments to update and improve this information.
Check out what your fire hazard rating is by using the RDN FireHazard Map in your overall area. You can move around the map and zoom in on a particular area.
- Where should I start? - Home Ignition Zone
The area around your home can be broken into four different zones. Start from the Non-Combustible Zone by tackling simple tasks like cleaning your gutters, clearing debris from below your patio, and sweeping debris away from your porch!
Non-Combustible Zone (0 –1.5 meters) - Reduce the chance of wind-blown embers igniting materials near your home. A non-combustible surface should extend around the entire home and any attachments, such as decks. Creating a non-combustible surface can be as easy as clearing vegetation and combustible material down to mineral soil. To add to your landscape design, use non-combustible materials such as gravel, brick, or concrete in this critical area adjacent to your home. Woody shrubs, trees or tree branches should be avoided in this zone, any that are present should be properly mitigated.
Zone 1 (1.5 – 10 meters) Create a landscape that will not easily transmit fire to the home. Here are some tips to achieve this:
- A FireSmart yard includes making smart choices for your plants, shrubs, grass and mulch. Selecting fire-resistant plants and materials can increase the likelihood of your home surviving a wildfire.
- Plant a low density of fire-resistant plants and shrubs.
- Avoid having any woody debris, including mulch, as it provides potential places for fires to start.
- Storing items such as firewood piles, construction materials, patio furniture, tools and decorative pieces against or near a house is a major fire hazard. Move firewood piles, trailers/ recreational vehicles, storage sheds and other combustible structures out of this zone and into Zone 2. If unable to move, store firewood inside your mitigated garage, shed or other ember resistant structures, create a non-combustible zone underneath and for 1.5 meters around trailers/ vehicles and mitigate sheds and other structures to the same standards as those of your home.
Zone 2 (10 – 30 meters) If your property extends out to this zone, thin and prune evergreen trees to reduce hazards in this area. Within 30 meters of your home, selectively remove evergreen trees to create at least 3 meters of horizontal space between the single or grouped tree crowns and remove all branches to a height of 2 meters from the ground on the remaining evergreen trees. If possible, pruning trees up to 100 meters from your home (Zone 3) is recommended. Regularly clean up accumulations of fallen branches, dry grass and needles from on the ground to eliminate potential surface fuels. Consider seeking the guidance of a forest professional with wildland fire knowledge on appropriate management options for this zone.
Zone 3 (30 – 100 meters) Taking FireSmart actions in Zone 3 on your property will influence how a wildfire approaches your home. You can change the dynamics of wildfire behaviour by managing vegetation within this zone. Look for opportunities to create a fire break by creating space between trees and other potentially flammable vegetation. Thinning and pruning is effective here as well. These actions will help reduce the intensity of a wildfire. Consider seeking the guidance of a forest professional with wildland fire knowledge on appropriate management options for this zone.
- What can I do at my Home? - FireSmart Homeowner's Manual
There are many simple steps you can take around your home and property to become more FireSmart. A great place to start is creating a regular yard maintenance routine. This includes cleaning your gutters of debris, mowing the grass, clearing vegetation away from your home and combustible fence. Check out the FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual available for download here for more great actions to create a non-combustible zone around your home to reduce the risk from wildfire damage.
- How can I keep my Neighbourhood Safe? - FireSmart Canada Neighbourhood Recognition Program
FireSmart Canada developed the FCNRP to officially recognize neighbourhoods that have taken critical steps to reduce their vulnerabilities to wildfire. Because FireSmart is most effective when neighbours band together. This program is a great way to encourage your neighbourhood to become FireSmart and to celebrate the FireSmart steps you've taken as a community.
At the Regional District of Nanaimo, we have a lot of certified Local FireSmart Representatives who can help you on your journey. To find your Local FireSmart Representative, send an email to emergencyservices [at] rdn.bc.ca. They will lead you through FireSmart Home Assessments, connect you with valuable resources, and help you organize a FireSmart Committee.
If your neighbourhood, subdivision or small town is prone to wildfire, then you can get FireSmart recognition status by meeting the following criteria:
- Enlisting a wildland/urban interface specialist to complete an assessment and create a plan that identifies locally agreed-upon solutions that the neighbourhood can implement.
- Sponsoring a local FireSmart committee, which maintains the FireSmart Neighbourhood Plan and tracks its progress or status.
- Conducting FireSmart events each year that are dedicated to a local FireSmart project.
- Investing a minimum of $2 per capita annually in local FireSmart Neighbourhood efforts.
- Submitting an annual report to FireSmart Canada that documents continuing compliance with the program.
For more information, you can email us at emergencyservices [at] rdn.bc.ca or check out the FireSmart BC FCNRP Webpage
- What should I do if I'm building a new home? - Homebuilding and Development Considerations
When building a new home, you have the opportunity to select FireSmart materials. We've highlighted some tips below. For more information, chek out the FireSmart Home Construction page
Unscreened vents can allow heat and embers to enter a building and ignite it. Install non-combustible material for all vents. They should be 3-millimetre screening or ASTM (American rating system) fire rated vents. Metal products are recommended for vents and vent flashing.
With inadequate ground-to-siding clearance, accumulated embers can ignite combustible siding directly. At least 15 centimetres of ground-to-siding, non-combustible clearance is recommended. Examine your siding for locations where embers could accumulate. Maintaining and removing combustible debris (such as lumber, stored vehicles, branches, grass and leaves) and firewood near the exterior walls will reduce a building’s vulnerability to ignition during a wildfire.
Superior Fire-Resistant materials are:
Fibre cement siding
The roof is the most VULNERABLE component of your home. Sparks and burning embers from a wildfire can travel long distances and quickly ignite flammable roofing material.
Class A – high resistance to fire. Examples of Class A roofing material include clay tile, concrete tile, metal and asphalt shingles.
Class B – moderate resistance to fire.
Class C – low resistance to fire. Examples include untreated wood shakes.
Roof features such as skylights and solar panels could be entry or accumulation points for wind-blown embers. Keep these features clear of combustible debris and properly maintained.
- What should I plant in my yard? - Landscaping and Gardening
Fire resistant plants are those that do not readily ignite from flame or other ignition sources. These plants can be damaged or even killed by fire however, their foliage and stems do not significantly contribute to the fuel and fire intensity.
Characteristics of fire-resistant plants:
- low amount of sap or resin material
- moist, supple leaves
- accumulates minimal dead vegetation
- water-like sap with little odour
Characteristics of highly flammable plants:
- leaves or needles are aromatic
- accumulates fine, dry dead material
- contain resin or oils
- loose, papery or flaky bark
Examples of plants to AVOID planting: cedar, juniper, pine, tall grass and spruce
Plan your landscape with low water requirements that are also FireSmart. Water conservation and environmental protection are values shared by all of us. Checkout the following resources for FireSmart and WaterSmart landscapes.
RDN FireSmart and WaterSmart: FireSmart and WaterSmart Landscaping Guide
FireSmart BC Landscaping Guide: FireSmart BC Landscaping Guide
City of Campbell River & Strathcona Regional District: FireSmart Guide to Gardening
RDN WaterSmart: Team WaterSmart Landscaping Guides