An Okanagan Mayor is calling on the Province to step in and take more action in helping to prevent forest fires.
West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater says municipalities already do a lot of work to clear fuels from parks and other public lands.
However, he says more needs to be done to convince private land owners from doing similar prevention work on their properties.
“The private lands that are in interface areas is a problem,” says Findlater.
Findlater would like to come up with a way to require private land owners to clean up and fire proof their properties.
But he says liability issues are too great for individual municipalities to create such a bylaw.
“If you take on that responsibility and you do mitigate it and there is a fire, someone would say you did not do it well enough if there is damage and you assume liability,” says Findlater.
Findlater says the province has more clout and more cash than local Governments to take on that responsibility.
“Municipalities have limited budgets we are not allowed to run deficits. We have to be careful with every nickel of our property tax so we are simply unable to take on that level of risk. The province has a larger pool of resources and they have different authorities,” says Findlater.
The West Kelowna Mayor says the district has repeatedly attempted to get the Province’s attention, but it all seems to be falling on deaf ears.
“So far they have been unresponsive, ” he says.
Indeed local MLA and Minister of Forests Steve Thompson was non-committal when we asked about the issue.
“This is really about individual responsibility, about continuing that responsibility that communication, that education. I think people understand the role they need to play and we need to continue to advocate and work with our partners,” says Thompson.
Findlater says he’s most concerned about parcels of land adjacent to interface areas that sit empty for future development.
He says all too often no mitigation work is ever done on those lands.