City administration will bring council a FireSmart report including areas of need as well as residential covenants and naturalized areas. 

The direction to administration came from the Operational Services Committee on May 23 during a conversation on the city’s naturalization efforts. 

“Council received a letter from concerned community members around naturalization and especially considering the fires that rip through the Alberta north as a potential fire hazard,” said Coun. Chris Thiessen. 

City council adopted a boulevard naturalization pilot project in February that will see cessation of mowing on 13 hectares of arterial boulevard areas to allow a return to a more natural state.

Thiessen said he has heard that naturalization could prevent the spread of fires by creating a buffer and that it could create an area where a fire could move across quickly. 

Kase DeVries, the city’s director of parks, said there are ongoing talks with the fire department about the naturalized and forested areas, and reconsiderations could be made under the fire department’s expertise. 

He said the initial reason for adopting naturalization of certain areas was due to the safety of workers in steep and wet areas. 

DeVries also noted some areas were being mowed in environmental reserves. 

“There were some environmental reserves where mowers were currently active, and given the name environmental reserves, they shouldn’t have been.”

Mayor Jackie Clayton said she has spoken with FireSmart experts from the province in recent weeks.

“There are a few areas that were identified as the work that should be done first (such) as adjacent to Country Club, as well as a couple of other areas. 

“The conversation led me to believe that council should have another consideration and discussion on naturalization.”

She said further considerations include mowing naturalized areas in areas where safe to do so in the fall so that regrowth the next year is significantly less and without thick thatching underneath.

Clayton said additional FireSmart strategies should be explored in the city.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo has a FireSmart Home Assessment app that helps Fort McMurray residents FireSmart their homes.

She said the app allows users to go around their yards, locate dangerous spots, and learn how to make their yards safer.

“We do know that there are areas in the city that the covenants of that area still mandate cedar shakes as the roofing material,” said the mayor, noting it is time for the city to be more fire aware.

By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 01, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Town & Country News   Beaverlodge, Alberta

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