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Cortes Island CWPP: Density
General News · 10th October 2018
Shaun Koopman
On Saturday October 13th the Strathcona Emergency Program and Cortes Island Fire Department will be offering a presentation on the FireSmart principles with a representative from Strategic Natural Resources.

Wildfires are unpredictable and interface fires present unique challenges and obstacles but by being practical and proactive it's possible to reduce the risk of wildfire before it threatens your home and community. Learn more proactive ways to reduce the risk of wildfire on Cortes Island.

FireSmart is a national initiative to help property owners and communities understand the ways in which wildfire might threaten structures and property located in, and close to, forested and wildland areas, and the steps individuals and communities can take to reduce the susceptibility of buildings and property to fire.

For example:
•Clearing all plants and other vegetation from within 10m of a structure;
•Ensuring that there are no trees or other vegetation overhanging the roof; and
•When planting new trees consider planting deciduous species such as birch and aspen.

Following after-action reports from events such as the 2003 Kelowna wildfires to Fort McMurray in 2017 it seems clear that the survival of homes during these interface fire events was a function of each properties’ resistance to ignition, and not a random event or matter of luck.

Property and home ignition during a wildfire event is a dual function of the amount of heat being transferred ay any given time and the length of time that heat exposure continues. Increasing the distance from flames or sources of radiant heat or decreasing the length of exposure drastically cuts potential for ignition. Since the burn-out time for forest fuels is usually less than 60-90 seconds at the forest/urban interface, the distance between the homes and forest becomes a critical variable. Historically, embers that enter or land upon structures have been considered as the main cause of home ignition and loss. Of the 238 homes destroyed during the 2003 Kelowna fire storm, only two were known to have ignited by direct flame contact. Spot fires caused by embers are common at distances of 100-500m, occur at distances of more than 5 kilometres and sometimes as much as nine kilometres.

Based on studies from Fort McMurray
• A 90% survival rate was noted on homes with non-combustible roofing and 10 meters of vegetation clearance around the home.
• 81% of surviving homes were rated as being ‘FireSmart’.
• Home ignition probably was substantially increased when:
o Bulky, high flammability ornamental shrubs (usually juniper, cedar, arbour vita or mugo pine) were placed within 1-3m of windows, walls or eaves.
o Substantial, easily ignited fuel sources such as garden sheds, ATVs, petroleum products and firewood or construction material was located within 5m of the home or under combustible elements of the home.

You may be wondering 'why is the emergency program hosting this session in October (after fire season)'? I should clarify that this session is funded through a FireSmart grant the Regional District received through the Union of BC Municipalities and successful grant applicants did not receive notice until mid-May which makes these types of sessions difficult to plan before fire season because stakeholders such as Strategic Natural Resources are already heavily invested in fire season itself. Luckily now through the help of advocacy of local government emergency coordinators the next intake for FireSmart grants have been restructured and successful applicants will be notified in February.

The Cortes Island Community Wildfire Protection Plan can be found at

Should you have any questions, comments about anything disaster preparedness related or would like to request another type of information session to take place on Cortes Island for the public or your organization please do not forget I am only two ferry rides away.