Strathcona County is doing about twice as many Fire Smart evaluations as it has in previous years and officials say the uptick is likely connected to recent wildfires.
Fire Smart inspections entail crews going to homes to examine things like where trees are planted, how long the grass is and what kind of building material is used.
Strathcona County isn’t waiting for homeowners to call them. Officials have ranked the county’s 200 subdivisions from most to least in need of Fire Smart upgrades and fire crews are knocking on doors in each of those subdivisions.
Since 2014, they have evaluated about 1,000 properties. Lately, they’ve found more and more people asking for their help.
“After the Fort McMurray wildfire, we definitely saw an uptake of interest and concern from residents,” said Gord George, who looks after the Fire Smart program for Strathcona County Emergency Services.
In Strathcona County, the fire service is hoping to help prevent wildfires by visiting thousands of properties to help make them safer. Fletcher Kent has more on the hands-on approach.
This year, the county also fought multiple grass fires that threatened homes and industry.
READ MORE: 2 wildfires northeast of Edmonton being held
Typically, about a quarter of the homeowners approached by Fire Smart crews schedule an evaluation. This year, about half are doing so. George Percy is one of them.
“This is the time of year we cringe,” he said. “It becomes our month of hell.”
Percy has lived on his hobby farm near Bruderheim for the past 38 years.
Watch below: The Global 1 helicopter captured this raw footage of the grass fires burning on either side of Bruderheim on Saturday, May 12, 2018.
Earlier this month, one of the wildfires in the county forced him to flee his home. It burned trees that stood a few hundred metres from his farmhouse.
In 2009, a different fire came even closer. It destroyed his barn and all of his outbuildings.
When Strathcona County approached him about a Fire Smart evaluation, he jumped at the chance.
“After being burned once literally, we’re twice smart,” he said.
“They have to pay attention to that kind of stuff. I don’t know if it’s as bad elsewhere in the province as it is here but it’s a thing that you don’t get a second take at.”
During his inspection, Percy learned his new barn is at risk. It’s made of wood and the grass around it is long. Evaluators also had concerns about where he kept his firewood and how close some dead bedding plants were to the home.
Much of what inspectors say is common sense, in retrospect. Percy appreciates it. He’d rather have someone like George point out what he needs to happen than allow fire to highlight the mistakes.
Strathcona County Emergency Services has now completed about 50 community assessments. There are approximately 200 subdivisions in the county.