With another wildfire season on the horizon, B.C. government officials travelled to the South Okanagan on Monday morning to make a grant funding announcement for wildfire mitigation.
Ravi Kahlon, parliamentary secretary for forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, announced $9 million in funding to help 89 local governments and First Nations across B.C., including the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and the Penticton Indian Band.
Overall, the B.C. government has committed $60 million to help local governments and First Nations reduce the risk of wildfire through the promotion and use of FireSmart principles.
When asked if the province is committing more funding to wildfire mitigation, Kahlon said it’s the same amount that’s been provided in previous years.
“The only major difference is that communities made it clear to us that they didn’t want to do the partnership, the sharing of these funds, because many communities couldn’t make that money available,” he said on Monday at the Penticton Indian Band Health Centre, where the announcement was made.
Among the recipients is the Penticton Indian Band, which will use $150,000 to reduce the buildup of flammable material like wood debris, branches and undergrowth from high-risk areas near homes and crucial infrastructure.
The Penticton Indian Band has been a recognized FireSmart community since 2016.
“Caring for our lands, including the health of our forests, is an inherent right and responsibility we as Syilx-Okanagan people take seriously and are working with many levels of government ministries through agreements like this,” said Chief Chad Eneas.
“Fuel management supports us to protect the cultural and heritage value of our forests as well as ensure they can contribute to a sustainable economy for many generations.”
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen also received $140,000 to update an official community plan to incorporate FireSmart principles for keeping homes, neighbourhoods and communities safe.
Funding will also be spent on a FireSmart educator for public outreach and education, said Karla Kozakevich, regional district chair.
Kahlon’s two-day visit will take him to Osoyoos, Summerland and Merritt to meet with representatives from multiple communities from the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres.
The 2017 and 2018 forest fire seasons were particularly troublesome for the South Okanagan-Similkameen region, with thousands of hectares burned and dozens of homes evacuated.
For a full list of communities receiving wildfire resiliency grant funding, click here.