Vulnerable homeowners in areas threatened by wildfire can access free FireSmart advice and support from a government-funded job creation project supported by the United Way.
The fire mitigation project, originally scheduled to end in April, has been extended by four months to meet community need and to provide more job seekers with more opportunities, according to a press release from the provincial government.
Sixteen people will work over the summer to help seniors and persons with disabilities become FireSmart by preparing and protecting their homes from the threat of wildfires in Quesnel, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake and Clinton.
This includes educating people about how to make their homes and property safer and removing vegetation that can fuel a wildfire.
To promote safety for people and communities, homeowners will also receive fire prevention materials and a resource list for assistance and support.
“Connecting people with new skills and opportunities is part of our government’s focus on creating good jobs,” Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, said in the release. “Community-driven projects like this one benefit participants, communities and the labour market, while creating a safer environment.”
Quesnel homeowners Florence and Morris Gran are senior citizens who qualified for the fire mitigation program.
“Al [Waters] and his crew of three came to our ranch yesterday and today,” they said in the release. “They cut limbs, cut junipers, raked and worked steadily. He did not just supervise but worked hard alongside the young men working with him. And we are so grateful. This program is a real asset for seniors.”
To date, since the start of the project in August 2018, 22 people have received training and work experience.
Project participants have completed 264 FireSmart assessments and 220 mitigations. The goal is to complete 100 more.
The project provides extensive training in the formal FireSmart assessment process.
The Thompson Nicola Cariboo United Way offers this service for free so people in wildfire-prone parts of the province have help protecting their home from potential fire threats.
The crews also remove possible dangers, known as fire fuels, such as bushes, small trees or other organic matter, and provide information on how homeowners can further protect their property.
“There is a high demand for skilled workers to provide advice, support and labour in helping prevent the devastating loss of homes during the wildfire season,” said Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Emergency Preparedness. “Training local people in fire mitigation will help meet the need for skilled workers in this and related fields.”
The Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction provided $729,498 through the Jobs Creation Program stream of the Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) program.
CEP funds projects that increase employability levels and share labour market information.
“In being able to provide FireSmart activities at no charge to vulnerable people in communities impacted by wildfires, those homeowners feel better prepared and less stressed,” said Monica Johnson, fire mitigation project manager for United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo. “The training and experience we provide to the participants are relevant and definitely increases their employability. We’ve had several participants exit the program because they’ve gotten jobs.”
For more information, contact the United Way at firstname.lastname@example.org.