The District of Kent will be applying for some help to keep the forests around Harrison Highlands fire-friendly.
Council agreed to endorse a $40,300 grant application to the UBCM Community Resiliency Investment program, which would provide full funding for the district to do fuel management on parts of Mount Woodside.
Fuel management essentially means thinning trees, branches and brush in several district-owned lots around the Harrison Highlands development, including the Blair Henry Park, the lookout on Highlands Boulevard and two other parcels of land near Lougheed Highway.
The idea is to help the area be less susceptible to vigorous fires and make it easier for firefighters to deal with a fire if it does occur.
“What we will get from this site is protection for the only current access and egress route for the Harrison Highlands subdivision, which can be really huge in the event of an interface fire in the area,” deputy fire chief Mike Van Laerhoven said. “It will give people a better chance of getting out as you’ll have less intense fire close to the road.”
The fuel management practices would also provide an example for local homeowners, so they could see how fuel management can reduce the risk of wildfires and possibly model the same techniques on their own properties.
“One of the biggest things is for people who live in that area to be able to see what difference it can make to how the forest looks,” Van Laerhoven said. “It’s an easy visual reminder of when they come in and out of the area to take those own actions on their own property.”
The Harrison Highlands area was designated as the number one priority in the recently approved Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which outlined 50 recommendations for the district to help make it less vulnerable to wildfire.
Council voted unanimously to support the grant application, which would completely cover the costs of fuel management on the 2.6 hectares of land if approved. Several, including councillor Stan Watchorn and mayor Sylvia Pranger, spoke about the importance of the project for the area.
“Given the nature of the development on Mount Woodside, I think it’s very important,” Pranger said. “This is the only highly-developed or reasonably-developed property in a forested area that we have, other than Rockwell Drive.”
Councillor Duane Post asked about the other 156 hectares of municipally-owned land — and thousands of hectares in private and crown land — and what would happen with those as far as fire management.
“There’s hundreds of hectares of land that’s designated for proposed treatment,” Van Laerhoven said. “Obviously where the grant maximum is and with our budget it’s not really feasible to think it’s going to happen any time soon, but this is a good step in the right direction.”
He added that if there were funds leftover, the district could speak with UBCM to see about using the funds for fuel management in other areas.