The City of Quesnel is hoping to be able to do FireSmart wildfire prevention and mitigation work on private properties in 2021.
Council agreed at its Oct. 20 meeting to support the City taking over FireSmarting on private property through the Jobs Creation Program, including the creation of a 0.25-full-time-equivalent for the project manager — subject to satisfaction with WorkSafeBC and liability issues.
The fire mitigation project was formerly run by the United Way and operated in Quesnel in 2018 and 2019. It was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Working with the United Way’s former project manager (Monica Johnson), project supervisor (Steve Dodge) and crew bosses (Gary Horely and Ray Jungaro), City staff hope to duplicate this program in the 2021 field season, City forestry initiatives manager Erin Robinson told council.
This program will be funded by the Jobs Creation Program through the provincial Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The City would hire a project manager as a short-term staff position, and Robinson says staff is looking into a potential increase to liability and WorkSafeBC coverage, but these are expected to be minimal.
“Under the Job Creation Project, modeled after a successful project implemented by the United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo, the project participants (crew) will be EI-eligible clients referred from WorkBC and receive living support funding through WorkBC for their work on the project,” Robinson wrote in her report to council. “Crew would be trained in FireSmart residential assessments, gain work experience in the field of fire mitigation, given personal and professional development opportunities, and complete certifications to enhance their employability while making a valuable contribution to the community. As a community, it is rooted in the principles of community and social development and would be implemented in co-operation and collaboration with existing initiatives within the City and outlying communities within a defined boundary towards its wildfire prevention outcomes.”
Robinson says the intention is to do the work anywhere that is covered within the Community Wildfire Protection Plan boundary.
“I think it’s key for council to remember a large proportion of the land base needing treatment in Quesnel’s and fringe area’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan is private lands, so if we can’t advance the private land treatment, some of the Crown land we’re doing, which is pretty significant, could be for nought, so having a program like this continue is very important to us achieving our objectives,” said Mayor Bob Simpson.