Banff expands roof replacement rebate to protect community from wildfire

Banff moves to make homes more fire-resistant
With the increasing threat of wildfires, Banff is trying to be proactive to protect its community. As Reid Fiest reports, the Alberta town is expanding a program that would replace highly flammable roofs.

When Banff, Alta. resident Stuart Back stood on his front lawn last summer, he could see the smoke from a nearby wildfire.

Back, who has called the mountain town home for 12 years, worried his aging cedar shake roof could be kindling for a fiery ember blowing into the community.

“Sometimes you just need a trigger to bring that to the top of your list as a homeowner,” Back told Global News.

Back was one of the first to take advantage of a financial incentive from The town of Banff to convert his roof to non-combustible shingles.

“If there was a fire, it would travel quickly and I really don’t think it matters where in town really for a lot of us who live in the community, we have to think about protecting everywhere.” Back said.

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READ MORE: Alberta to boost spending on program to help protect communities from wildfire

In July 2017, a haze hung over the community for most of the summer, and it got its nearly 9,000 residents talking.

It was especially pertinent for the 327 homeowners with combustible roofs in the area.

Seventy-seven homeowners now have applications in for the $900-a-roof rebate, with 31 already done.

Along with updates to building codes, town council recently expanded the program to include all residents, not just those living in the most high-risk communities.

Banff Mayor Karen Sorensen hopes all roofs will be changed out in about a decade.

“Basically put the entire town as saying it does have a medium or really a high risk, so now we want to incorporate the land-use guidelines that we had in the high-risk zones to right across the community,” Sorensen said.

No one can predict when a wildfire will be sparked but one hasn’t burned in this area for over 100 years.

The forest is old and thick, full of fuel that could flare up.

It’s why Banff’s Fire Department has spent the last few months thinning out 60 hectares of dense areas throughout the community, as part of its FireSmart program.

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In conjunction with controlled burns by Parks Canada, fire chief Silvio Adamo is working to prepare for a forest fire erupting in this area.

“We’re a small geographical footprint – 4.8 square kilometres – and embers can land anywhere in town from a wildfire,” Adamo said.