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FireSmart

FireSmart is a national program adopted in communities across Canada aimed at reducing the risk of wildfire to homes and neighbourhoods. The Municipality is implementing a number of FireSmart preventative measures on municipally owned lands to mitigate the risk of future wildfires. The Municipality is also working with the Government of Alberta regarding FireSmart preventative measures on their lands.

Work is ongoing throughout the RMWB using the seven disciplines of FireSmart:

  • Education
  • Vegetation management
  • Legislation and planning
  • Development considerations
  • Interagency cooperation
  • Emergency planning
  • Cross training

FireSmart means living with and managing for wildfire on our landscape. According to FireSmart Canada, preparing for the threat of wildfire is a shared responsibility. From homeowners to industry to government, we all have responsibility to lessen the effects of wildfire.

Wildland Urban Interface is a popular term used to describe an area where structures and forested areas meet, like much of our community.

Firebreak Zones

Simply put, Wildland Urban Interface is where the urban lifestyle meets environments that are prone to wildfire.

Wildfires are a natural part of Alberta’s wildland ecosystems. Without wildfire, the landscape loses its diversity. Wildfires recycle nutrients, help plants reproduce and create a mosaic of vegetation that provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. By choosing to extend our lifestyles and communities further into forested areas, we become more exposed to the danger of wildfire. Living where wildfires can occur puts your home at risk, but it is possible to live safely with this natural event. FireSmart Canada makes recommendations that, if followed, will reduce the risk of wildfire to your home and neighbourhood and help firefighters to defend your home.

FireSmart education includes teaching you about the work going on around you within the seven disciplines to plan better communities, legislate change, manage vegetation through trimming and pruning trees and shrubs which helps to reduce the fuel for a future fire and slow its growth and make it easier to fight, and plan for emergencies. FireSmart Education also includes teaching homeowners some of the tools they can apply to help mitigate the risk of a fire.

Firebreak Rules of Thumb

Adopting FireSmart principles will not prevent fires, but can help to mitigate the risk of a fire and to slow a fire should one occur, helping firefighters defend your home and community.

Current Projects

Vegetation management projects are ongoing in Anzac, which includes fuel reduction projects such as the removal of dead standing trees and thinning/pruning the remaining trees. This is not a clear cutting operation.

Debris generated from the removal and thinning of trees and plants is being disposed of in a number of different ways including mulching and small, supervised burns.

Debris piles are being disposed by supervised burning, which is only performed in favourable, safe weather conditions and in accordance with strict guidelines.

Past Projects

The FireSmart program is not a new initiative in Wood Buffalo. FireSmart preventative measures have taken place throughout the region for the past several decades, including areas near the Bichwood Trails, Ermine Crescent, Sicamore Place and Burns Place.

Safety

Throughout the FireSmart fuel reduction projects, the safety and well-being of residents is the Municipality’s top priority.

Residents are asked to stay away from active work zones and operating equipment, as well as obey all warning signs and closure signs throughout the trails.

Residents are asked to keep the safety of themselves and others in mind. Stay clear of the ongoing controlled burn sites and drive with caution when passing these sites on the road. Slowing or stopping your vehicle near the controlled burns increases the risk of traffic accidents.

FireSmart Home Development Guide

The FireSmart Home Development Guide assists homeowners in choosing building materials that will reduce the risk of fire damage to their homes.

FireSmart Homeowner’s Manual

The FireSmart Homeowner's Manual outlines steps homeowners can take to protect their home and yard from the risk of wildfire.

FireSmart Homeowner’s Assessment

The FireSmart Homeowner's Assessment assists homeowners in assessing wildfire hazards present in and around their home and yard.

RMWB Guide to FireSmart Landscaping

Homeowners who live adjacent to treed areas throughout the region are encouraged to learn and adopt FireSmart principles for their home and garden.

To help teach residents about FireSmart principles for landscaping, the Municipality has developed the RMWB Guide to FireSmart Landscaping as an introduction to FireSmart landscaping for homeowners living near treed areas.

Residents will learn about FireSmart priority zones, fire resistant plants,lawn care and basic principles to mitigate the risk of wildfire for homes and gardens. This resource also takes into account the region’s northern climate in its suggestions for fire resistant plants to add to landscapes.

Other landscaping considerations

When are planning landscaping, there are several things to keep in mind in addition to the FireSmart principles.

Hardiness

The RMWB is located in a northern climate which can be harsh for some kinds of plants. It’s important to make sure selected plants for residential yards are hardy enough to survive. Plants in Hardiness Zone 2 should survive in this climate. Use caution with plants in Hardiness Zone 3 as they may not thrive.

Mulch

Despite their positive attributes, many mulches are combustible, which is a major drawback when used in home landscapes located in wildfire-prone areas.

Due to its combustible nature, mulch is not recommended for use within five feet of your home or other structures on your property. Noncombustible alternatives to mulch in this area can include rock, gravel, concrete and pavers. Ignition-resistant plant materials such as irrigated lawn and flowers can also be used.

Despite their combustible characteristics, medium pine bark nuggets, Tahoe chips and composted wood chips can be used within the 5 to 30-foot area surrounding your home and other structures. Use these materials sparingly and separate mulched areas with noncombustible and ignition-resistant materials such as concrete, gravel, rock and lawn.

Composted wood chips prove to be the best choice of mulch for use in residential landscapes located in wildfire-prone areas. Be aware that wood chips are still combustible and can ignite wood siding, plant debris and other combustible materials that come into contact with the mulch bed. Use sparingly and separate with noncombustible and ignition-resistant materials such as concrete, gravel, rock and lawn.

Shredded rubber, pine needle and shredded western red cedar mulches demonstrate the most hazardous combustion characteristics and are recommended for use only in areas more than 30 feet from your home or other structures.

Combustibility of Landscape Mulches

Black Knot Disease

Black knot is a tree and shrub disease that affects members of the Prunus family like chokecherry and pin cherry, and is a common problem for residents of Wood Buffalo. Residents may see it in their yard or neighbourhood.

The disease can be easily identified. It develops on twigs and branches, and looks like lumps of thick, black, tar-like swelling that may vary in size from 1/2 inch to more than 12 inches in length.

Black knot has been reported on 24 species of Prunus in North America, but is most commonly found on wild and cultivated plum and cherry trees.

Residents are encouraged not to plant any new trees or shrubs in the Prunus species. You can learn more about how to eliminate Black Knot disease and how to care for existing Prunus species trees and shrubs here.

Elm Pruning Ban

Dutch elm disease (DED) is a deadly disease that can affect any elm tree. Since its introduction from Europe in 1930, it has destroyed millions of American elm trees across North America. DED is prevalent in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Montana. At present, Alberta has the largest DED-free American elm stands in the world. A total of 219,334 elms, worth $634 million dollars, grow in Alberta’s urban areas.

To reduce the risk of DED, pruning of elm trees is prohibited throughout Alberta each year from April 1 until Sept. 30. Fresh cuts from pruning may attract the beetles that can spread the disease, increasing the chance of an infection. Once they have infected an area, elm bark beetles will feed on healthy elms during the growing season, and then breed over winter in dead and dying elm trees. Learn more about DED and the Elm Pruning Ban here.

FireSmart Guide for the Oil and Gas Industry

The FireSmart Guide for the Oil and Gas Industry introduces wildfire management through the lens of the Oil and Gas Industry, by providing information on enhancing personnel safety during a wildfire event, enhancing emergency response capability, mitigating economic impact during shutdowns, mitigating infrastructure loss or damage and reducing liability for industry-caused ignitions.

More Information

For more information and resources on FireSmart Canada, visit FireSmartCanada.ca

For questions, call the PULSE Line.

Wildfire Rebuild  [Learn more]

Subzones 2 and 3 in all Winter Maintenance Zones (WMZ) are active [Learn more]