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Central Okanagan neighbourhood named Canada’s latest FireSmart community

FireSmart Canada is singing the praises of Shelter Cove residents for their efforts to protect their properties and lessen the risk of wildfires.

“The residents here have really been focusing on their homes and their properties by establishing the metre and a half non-combustible zone, also known as the immediate zone around their properties,” said RDCO FireSmart coordinator, Adam Skrinnikoff.

“Work such as limbing tree branches, removing fine forest fuels such as pine needles and leaves, deadfall, that sort of thing.”

The FireSmart neighbourhood recognition program is a Canada-wide initiative that acknowledges communities that have taken proactive measures to minimize the risks of a wildfire, and grants are also available to those who participate.

“Residents can contact me, I’ll come out to your home and do a free property assessment, and then from there we’ll work on mitigating risks to your home – I’ll offer mitigation steps that you can take, and if you work towards those steps or any work you do towards FireSmart will be eligible for the rebate program,” said Skrinnikoff.

“Right now, the RDCO is offering $500, and we are expecting another $1000 grants in the New Year.”

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One Shelter Cove resident who’s lived there for 30 years says he’s seen wildfires in the region grow increasingly worse each year. He says he’s taken several steps to prevent wildfires from reaching his home and spreading.

“I replaced the roof on my house, I’ve taken all the shrubs out along one side of the property and replaced it with rocks, I’ve cleared out the other side of my property and taken a lot of the brush and shrub trees that I planted years ago out,” said Shelter Cove resident, Bob Heffernan.

“We’ve tried to remove limbs on all trees at least up to 10-feet high.”

In both 2021 and 2023, Shelter Cove residents narrowly avoided disaster, as wildfires ripped through nearby homes and forested area along Westside Road. Heffernan says seeing the devastation all around them is difficult, but it’s a stark reminder to keep up the work being done in his neighbourhood.

“Over the 30 years I’ve lived here, we’ve been evacuated probably four times, so, it gets progressively worse every year with the fire hazard getting greater and greater every year,” said Heffernan.

“I now have to go down my bank and start clearing off cedar trees that I planted years ago, so all the things I did to beautify the property, I’m going to rip them all out and put gravel or rock down there.”

To learn more about FireSmart, click here.

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