CANADA – A $9-million initiative from the B.C. government will help stoke the Penticton Indian Band’s and other local governments’ wildfire prevention programs.
Ravi Kahlon, the parliamentary secretary for forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, announced Monday morning the PIB will receive a $150,000 grant, and the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen a $140,000 grant to help prevent and fight future forest fires.
“Many people know that if you’re in a community that’s faced fires over the last several years, it’s quite a traumatic experience,” said Kahlon.
“I know this community here was on alert last year, and there were concerns of smoke. It’s the new reality, unfortunately.”
Kahlon said the province has realized it needs to “do better” in assisting smaller communities with grants as a part of its Community Resiliency Investment program.
“We need to work co-operatively,” he said, adding grants now fund up to 100% of local projects, whereas in the past communities were expected to put partial funds forward before receiving assistance.
PIB chief Chad Eneas said the money would “certainly be used for community preparedness.”
“We don’t have a fully funded fire department,” he explained. “We have a volunteer fire department. We also have a small forestry company in our natural resources. So looking at grassland mitigation, fire prevention, fuel reduction and I think really a lot of it is about creating awareness.”
RDOS chair Karla Kozakevich said her organization’s grant will help fund projects such as “community FireSmart assessments for the upper Carmi and Apex neighbourhoods, creating a FireSmart webpage on the RDOS website” and other fire-prevention opportunities.
There are also plans to hire a FireSmart educator for public education and outreach within the RDOS.