Delta is hoping a funding request of up to $100,000 will allow the city to better prevent against future wildfires, after a report found Delta’s fire risk had increased since 2010.
According to a recently updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan, Delta’s fire risk has risen in the last eight years, going from an area of low and medium risk to an area of medium and high risk.
Although the official rating has gone up, most of Delta’s land is classified as low-risk. Only four per cent of Delta’s land is high-risk, and five per cent is medium risk. A total of 56 per cent of the land inside Delta is privately owned, which means it wasn’t considered in the wildfire assessment.
The areas of highest risk are on the edges of Burns Bog and the Delta Nature Reserve.
According to Delta Fire Chief Paul Scholfield, the increased rating is due to changing climate and a reclassification of trees in Burns Bog. But they wouldn’t have known that if the bog hadn’t caught on fire in 2016 and called Delta’s low fire-rating into question.
That summer, about 78-hectares of Burns Bog caught fire in a blaze that took fire departments from across the Lower Mainland more than a week to extinguish. The fire encroached on neighbouring industrial land and closed Highway 17 for the better part of a day.
“It was the 2016 bog fire that brought into question the finding that we were at a low risk, for the fuel types and how rapidly that fire spread,” Counc. Dan Copeland said during council on Monday, Nov. 26. Copeland was chief of the Delta Fire Department during the 2016 bog fire.
“I know the personnel were surprised by how fast that fire spread and crossed Highway 17.”
For that reason, Delta applied for funding from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) to update its community wildfire protection plan.
The update, which was presented to council on Nov. 26, came up with 32 recommendations to help reduce wildfire risk in Delta. These include developing better strategies for managing fuel sources, updating fire management plans for the city’s parks, establishing communication strategies for the public and upgrading training for fire department staff. It also recommended the Delta Fire Department purchase a sprinkler protection unit; this recommendation will be discussed during the 2019 business planning workshop in January.
“There is no silver bullet for reducing the city’s wildfires and interface fires,” Scholfield said during council, adding that the report offered a “buffet of options” for the future.
This includes the option to apply to the UBCM for funding to implement the recommendations, which Delta wasn’t able to do before because of its lower fire-risk designation.
Now, Delta will be moving forward and requesting up to $100,000 in funding from the UBCM to create a “treatment plan.” This document will look at concrete plans to reduce risk in specific locations, as well as identify potential issues in carrying out those plans.
After the treatment plan is complete, Delta would then be able to apply to the UBCM for more funding to carry out its recommendations.
The deadline for Delta to apply for UBCM funding for the treatment plan is Dec. 7, 2018.