Canadian Underwriter

New FireSmart Home Development Guide targets Canadian wildfire resiliency

May 5, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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FireSmart Canada, in partnership with The Co-operators, has developed a new resource to help Canadian residents make their homes more resilient to wildfire.

The FireSmart Home Development Guide, which will become part of the FireSmart Home Partners Program, outlines specific measures homeowners can take to reduce the risk of damage from wildfire, The Co-operators said in a press release on Thursday. Specifically, the guide provides recommendations on “elements that significantly reduces the wildfire risk a home faces”: roofing material and design; siding and vents; gutters and eaves; decks; fencing; and landscaping.

For example, a simple roof and exterior wall design will reduce the number of locations where combustible debris and embers can accumulate, the guide said. It also recommended, among other considerations, to select a boxed-in of soffited-eave design for the home; choose gutters and downspouts constructed of noncombustible materials, such as galvanized steel, copper and aluminum; removal of combustible debris and vegetation on, around and under decks and other attached structures; and avoidance of tall grass, spruce, cedar, juniper and pine plants.

“Canadians have seen the devastating personal, social and economic impact of wildfires, the most tragic of which occurred in Fort McMurray last year,” said Rob Wesseling, president and CEO of The Co-operators, in the release. “Fortunately, we know that proactive mitigation efforts by individual property owners can significantly reduce wildfire risk. By making the FireSmart Home Development Guide available, we are hoping to inspire homeowners to take action to protect what matters most – their loved ones and property.”

The guide will also now be part of the FireSmart Home Partners Program, which is being piloted in four communities: Fort Nelson First Nation, B.C.; Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, B.C.; Slave Lake, Alta. and Whitecourt, Alta. The program addresses the need for a standardized system that offers detailed, customized and measureable wildfire risk assessments and measurable risk reductions for individual properties. In the future, it will also include in-person workshops for insurers, realtors and homebuilders, the release said.

“Any place where conditions allow for ignition and spread of fire between structures and vegetation – the wildland-urban interface – people are more exposed to the risk of wildfire, and that needs to be considered and managed by all stakeholders, including property owners,” said Kelly Johnston, executive director of FireSmart Canada, a national program that helps Canadians reduce their wildfire risk and become fire-adapted through community-based solutions. “Preparing for the threat of wildfire is a shared responsibility that will only grow in importance as climate change and other factors continue to increase the risk. The FireSmart Home Partners Program provides homeowners with the tools and information to reduce the risk of wildfire to their homes.”

The release of the guide came on the same day that Partners in Protection Association/FireSmart Canada, in collaboration with the National Fire Protection Association in the United States, the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction and The Co-operators, announced funding for 20 projects across Canada as part of the third annual Wildfire Community Preparedness Day. The governments of Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Alberta and the Northwest Territories provided funding for an additional 14 projects.

The event, to be held on Saturday, is geared at measures to help reduce the risk of wildfire and other hazards, such as clearing leaves and other combustible debris from around property, working with neighbours to get a chipper service to remove slash and distributing wildfire safety information.

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