Initiatives aimed at preventing forest fires from burning homes are getting a boost in Sooke, which has received a $198,000 grant to reduce wildfire risk and prepare the community for any fires that do break out.
The funds will go toward community-based programs such as free FireSmart home assessments, and initiatives like disposal events for yard waste — since keeping yards clear is an important fire-prevention measure.
Those interested in installing roof sprinklers to protect their homes if they’re threatened by a wildfire can purchase them from the fire department, said Sooke Fire Chief Ted Ruiter. The cost is about $230.
“It just runs off your home water, either a well or municipal water,” Ruiter said. “You can strategically place them on your roof in the event that a wildfire gets close to your house.”
The funding comes from the Union of B.C. Municipalities FireSmart Community Funding and Supports Grant.
“Basically it’s about getting the information out there and educating people,” Ruiter said. “The goal is to work with community groups to provide them with the tools they need to mitigate the threat of wildfire.”
Sooke Mayor Maja Tait said a community like Sooke, which is surrounded by forests, is more vulnerable to wildfires than areas like Victoria or Oak Bay.
The area saw a pair of wildfires within a few weeks last summer near Tugwell Creek, northwest of town. Neither was over two hectares in size or damaged any structures, but conditions in the area were smoky and some people were prepared to leave if the situation worsened.
The Tugwell Creek area also had an 85-hectare fire in 2018, while a 2017 fire on Mount Manuel Quimper — a popular hiking destination just east of Sooke — led to controlled public access but was quickly suppressed.
Tait said the district tries to keep track of fire hazards in the community. “Sooke has large properties that are undeveloped that may be full of debris from when the property was logged, things like slash piles,” she said. “There could also be a significant amount of invasive plants like broom, which are highly flammable.”
It’s important to educate the community about the value of fire prevention around their homes and in public areas, she said.
“Even in our own parks department, what type of landscaping we have is important.”