Daniel Allaire has advice for people on how to protect their houses from forest fires.
“FireSmart starts in the owner’s backyard,” said the manager of forests for the South Slave region with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR). “Instead of starting outside the community, it should start right at people’s homes.”
Allaire was speaking at the Jan. 13 meeting of town council where he discussed the updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan for Hay River.
The plan was initially written in 2011 by a contractor in co-operation with the GNWT and the Town of Hay River, and updated in 2018.
Its first recommendation is to encourage residents to establish an adequate defensible space around their structures to a distance of 10 metres.
That includes removing flammable forest vegetation, limbs on trees to a minimum height of two metres from ground level, and all combustible material piles like firewood and lumber.
“Sometimes it’s not really a lot, maybe cut two or three trees,” said Allaire. “Move your woodpile away from your house. That type of thing.”
The ENR official stressed the need for public education.
“We have to basically get people on board with FireSmarting their homes,” he said. “I think that’s very important.”
Allaire suggested to council that the Town of Hay River could do fire assessments of properties, as was done by the fire department in Fort Smith where he lives.
“I think that would be a good step in the right direction,” he said.
Allaire also offered some statistics on forest fires in the Hay River area from 2009 to 2018.
“Within a 10-kilometre radius of the town of Hay River, there were 12 human-caused fires and three lightning fires,” he said, noting that doesn’t include grass fires put out by the Hay River Fire Department.
There are Community Wildfire Protection Plans for 29 communities in the NWT, including one for the Hay River Reserve.